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First US state bans police face recognition technology

California was the first state in the United States to prohibit the use of face recognition technology by police and other law enforcement agencies. Authorities noted that they might consider lifting the ban after the technology can be controlled.

The law prohibits the conversion of thousands of surveillance cameras used by police into mobile surveillance devices that track faces, voices, and even the unique manner in which citizens walk. The text prohibits “law enforcement agencies or individual employees from installing, activating or using any biometric surveillance system in connection with the officer’s camera or data collected by the officer’s camera.”

“We as lawmakers can chuckle, but those who are trying to get jobs or housing and are faced with false suspicions [due to a malfunctioning face recognition] are not laughed at,” Phil Ting, Member of the California State Assembly.

At the same time, Ting admits that the law is preventive in nature: while face recognition algorithms do not work with recordings from body cameras. In addition, the law is temporary.

The ban blocks state recognition by state law enforcement until the end of 2022. It also blocks the use of other biometric observation technologies and does not allow law enforcement agencies to use the available biometric data.

Among the critics of the bill is the State Sheriffs Association. They noted that even temporary bans “limit the effectiveness of law enforcement and undermine the safety of citizens.”

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