California Considering Banning Facial Recognition Devices for Police Software

A bill is on its way to the Californian Senate which may end up banning all uses of facial recognition software in law enforcement.
Fabienne Lang

Twenty-six our of 120 California state senators were flagged as criminals. By mistake. The faces of all of the State's lawmakers were put through a facial recognition device and placed against a database of 25,000 criminal mugshots. 

The data pulled 26 lawmakers as criminals--a mistake on the facial recognition device's programming. 


The American Civil Liberties Union of California (ACLU) carried out the test, and shared the information as it sent a ban on facial recognition devices to the state Senate, claiming it gives the wrong information. 

The ACLU is asking that facial recognition devices on police be banned.

Perhaps the technology is just not yet up to the task

Facial recognition systems are picking up momentum across the board. We see them being used in airports around the world, at concerts, and now on certain police uniforms. 

California Considering Banning Facial Recognition Devices for Police Software
U.S. Policeman wearing bodycam in North Charleston. Source: North Charleston/Flickr

They work by scanning a person's face, identifying it and running it through its database to see if it matches any criminal records. 

However, the ACLU experiment "reinforces the fact that facial recognition software is not ready for prime time - let alone for use in body cameras worn by law enforcement," said Assembly member, Phil Ting.

Ting was one of the 26 faces that matched a mugshot.

Moreover, facial recognition technology sometimes shows bias, especially with women and people of color. 

What is the bill?

AB 1215, also known as The Body Camera Accountability Act, is a bill that would ban the use of these facial recognition cameras in police-worn devices. 

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California Considering Banning Facial Recognition Devices for Police Software
AXON makes bodycams. Source: Sanderflight/Wikimedia Commons

Currently, no police team in the state of California is wearing these devices. This bill would stop them from ever wearing them, or at least until the technology is fault-proof.

As Ting said "I could see innocent Californians subjected to perpetual police lineups because of false matches. We must not allow this to happen."

It wouldn't be the first state to ban it. Oregon and New Hampshire have already banned the use of this technology by police officers since 2017.

The bill is set to be voted up in the coming weeks, as per the ACLU

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