California Senate passes bill to ban facial recognition in police body cameras as momentum grows at local, state, and federal level
State legislatures in New York, Michigan and Massachusetts are considering bills to rein in facial recognition surveillance and bipartisan legislation is expected in Congress
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California could become the first state to pass legislation limiting the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement. Yesterday, the state Senate passed AB 1215, a moratorium on the use of facial recognition surveillance in police body cameras, with bipartisan support. The bill attracted strong grassroots support from local, state, and national organizations.
Digital rights group Fight for the Future supported AB 1215 and are leading a national BanFacialRecognition.com campaign, which has been endorsed by more than 30 organizations, as well as a high profile campaign to halt the use of facial recognition surveillance at music festivals and concerts, supported by artists like Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Thievery Corporation, and Amanda Palmer.
“This is a major victory for civil rights and civil liberties groups on the ground in California who are leading the fight to rein in invasive facial recognition surveillance,” said Evan Greer, Deputy Director of Fight for the Future, “But no one should be subjected to automated biometric surveillance––the ultimate Big Brother surveillance weapon––regardless of where they live. That’s why we’re calling on lawmakers at the local, state, and federal level to enact an outright ban facial recognition surveillance.”
Movement to ban facial recognition spreads
California is not the only state considering reining in facial recognition, a uniquely dangerous form of surveillance technology that has drawn comparisons to nuclear and biological weapons in terms of its potential harm to society. There are two bipartisan bills (HB 4810 and SB 342) moving in the Michigan state legislature that would ban law enforcement use of facial recognition in the state. Massachusetts lawmakers will hold a hearing this Fall on a statewide moratorium bill to “press pause” on the use of the technology. And New York state is considering legislation to ban the use of facial recognition in schools.
Facial recognition surveillance has faced fierce opposition at the local level as well. San Francisco, Somerville, MA, and Oakland, CA, recently became the first cities in the country to ban the technology. Berkeley, CA, Cambridge, MA, and Emeryville, CA are also considering bans. Community activists in Detroit have been pressuring the City Council and the Board of Police Commissioners to stop police from using facial recognition.
Fight for the Future has launched an interactive map and activist toolkit to support efforts at the local and state level, and is driving phone calls and emails to Congress pushing for legislators to place an outright ban on law enforcement use of the tech.