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Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson Announces the Advancement of the Freedom from Face Surveillance Act

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the Assembly Public Safety Committee voted to advance AB 1034, the Freedom from Face Surveillance Act. This bill revives a previous law, expired in January 2023, which prohibited the use of facial recognition and other biometric surveillance on police body cameras.

“Facial recognition on body cameras twists what should be a tool for police accountability into a vehicle for mass surveillance. It would be the digital equivalent of having to show your papers to every police officer you pass,” Carmen Nicole Cox, director of government affairs at ACLU California Action. “It is not possible for the police to use face surveillance without worsening racial disparities, threatening immigrant communities, repressing freedom of speech, and violating our privacy. The only responsible standard for police use of face recognition is a total prohibition, and AB 1034 moves us closer to that goal.”

Before today’s hearing, 30 organizations, including reproductive, racial, immigrant, economic, and technology justice groups, submitted a letter in support.

Stopping facial recognition and other biometric surveillance is a top priority for the immigrants’ rights community. The technology has been widely deployed by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to conduct deportations - as of May 2022, the agency has used face recognition to examine driver license ID photos of 32% of all Americans, and is actively seeking new databases to incorporate into their surveillance dragnet.

Reproductive justice groups have also identified facial recognition as a threat to people seeking reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare. Similar concerns have been expressed by racial justice organizations, who fear face surveillance could be used as means of retaliation and suppression against Black Lives Matter activists.  

Academic research has concluded that facial recognition compounds racially discriminatory policing found that the use of facial recognition technology by police departments increases racial disparities in Black and white arrest rates. The National Institute of Standards and Technology determined that Black, Brown and Asian individuals are up to 100 times more likely to be misidentified than white male faces. And when applied to body cameras, research shows that facial recognition produces matching error rates as high as 100 percent.

Earlier this month, Democrat congressional leaders, including Representative Barbara Lee, and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, introduced legislation that would prevent the federal government from using facial recognition technology. Five California municipalities have already banned police face surveillance, with San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and Alameda all passing prohibitions.

AB 1034 will next be heard in the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee in April.