California is close to banning facial recognition technology

The State Senate in California, USA, has passed a bill that prohibits the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement for three years. According to the bill, ‘a law enforcement agency or law enforcement officer shall not install, activate, or use any biometric surveillance system in connection with an officer camera or data collected by an officer camera’. This ban, which is to apply until January 2023, is motivated largely by human rights considerations. The bill states that facial recognition and other biometric surveillance technology pose threats to civil rights and liberties, and their use in officer-worn cameras would transform those devices into surveillance systems. It also points to the risks of bias, as the technology ‘has been repeatedly demonstrated to misidentify women, young people, and people of colour and to create an elevated risk of harmful “false positive” identifications’. Welcomed by civil rights groups, the bill has reportedly been criticised both by law enforcement agencies and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. The latter urged lawmakers to replace the ban with safeguards to monitor the use of facial recognition by authorities. The bill still needs to be approved by the State Assembly and enacted by the governor to become applicable law.