New Law Blocks Police from Using Body Cam Facial Recognition
New technology emerges every day that changes how society operates. When there is a shift in the way members of the community interact with each other, inevitably policymakers must establish new laws to ensure the privacy and safety of each citizen is protected. Sometimes, developing legislation can be difficult, especially when the technology lawmakers are attempting to limit is the same one that could help improve police work.
Currently, lawmakers are tackling a relatively new, but quickly advancing technology called facial recognition.
Facial recognition software works by:
- Taking an image or video of a person
- Examining the eyes, nose, mouth, chin, and distance between features to “learn” a face
- Creating a map of the face: a “faceprint”
- Using complex algorithms to compare the source face with those stored in other databases
Today, there are many different places images of people’s faces are stored, such as the DMV’s driver’s license system, police department’s mug shot files, and school ID card databases. Facial recognition software can search millions of images when looking for a match with source data.
Where is the Legal Dilemma?
The problem legislators encounter with facial recognition software is whether or not it is legal for law enforcement to use it when conducting investigations. The system allows police and investigators to run an image of a suspect through various databases to see if that person can be identified.
Unfortunately, the results aren’t always accurate. When the facial recognition software returns “matches,” it provides photos of people similar to the one in the source image. That means an innocent person could be identified as a suspect and tried (and convicted) for a crime they didn’t commit. Additionally, facial recognition programs have trouble identifying women and people with darker complexions.
Right now, the questions are whether or not using facial recognition is a violation of constitutional protections, and if it should be used since there are gender and racial biases. The Fourth Amendment doesn’t address if a person’s face in public is subject to the unreasonable search and seizure doctrine. Do police need a warrant to try to identify a person based on existing images and footage of them?
Because the answer to that isn’t clear, lawmakers in California have taken a preemptive step to forbid using facial recognition software by law enforcement agencies. On October 8, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 1215, which bars local and state police departments from using or activating body cameras that have facial recognition installed in them. The text of the law states that using this technology puts every individual’s privacy at risk and violated rights, as it allows residents of and visitors to the state to be tracked without their permission.
The new law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2020, is temporary and will repeal after 3 years. Lawmakers said that this would allow them to see how improvements in facial recognition technology change the use and accuracy of such programs and whether or not this type of law was necessary in the future.
For Skilled Legal Defense, Contact The Law Office of Brian C. Andritch
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