California sees the looming privacy apocalypse on the horizon, and just took a small step to avert it.
On Tuesday, the state that many major American tech companies call home moved to ban the use of facial-recognition technology on recordings gathered by police officer cameras. The bill, signed into law by governor Gavin Newsom, is being hailed as a win by privacy advocates across the state.
“Let this be a warning to the companies and police departments rushing to adopt this dystopian technology,” wrote the ACLU. “We will defend our right to privacy.”
Interestingly, the bill is not limited specifically to facial-recognition tech — but rather, pertains to biometric surveillance in general. This potentially includes other forms of identification, like gait analysis, that could be gathered from police body cam videos.
“This bill would prohibit a law enforcement agency or law enforcement officer from installing, activating, or using any biometric surveillance system in connection with an officer camera or data collected by an officer camera,” it reads.
The passage of the bill follows San Francisco’s move earlier this year to ban the local government’s use of facial-recognition tech for the purpose of surveillance, and suggests a growing consensus that the problematic and prone-to-error technology has no place in law enforcement.
“The use of facial recognition and other biometric surveillance is the functional equivalent of requiring every person to show a personal photo identification card at all times in violation of recognized constitutional rights,” reads the bill. “This technology also allows people to be tracked without consent.”
The bill takes effect on Jan. 1 of 2020 and expires on Jan. 1 of 2023. Notably, it only applies to law enforcement’s use of such technology — not the private sector’s. Still, government contracts are how many private companies — such as Amazon — profit from this invasive form of surveillance.
Depriving them of California’s law enforcement as a potential client sends a strong message. Time will tell if anyone listens.