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New Legislation by Assemblymember Ting Seeks To Regulate Law Enforcement Use of Facial Recognition Technology

For immediate release:

Sacramento – Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) today announced a new bill, AB 642, the Facial Recognition Privacy Act, which sets comprehensive, statewide parameters around law enforcement use of facial recognition technology (FRT). The legislation aims to protect people’s privacy and due process rights, while also helping to keep communities safe with a valuable public safety tool.

“Facial recognition technology accuracy has markedly improved in recent years and can help law enforcement solve cases. With proper regulations, we can strike a balance between using this technology and concerns about protecting people’s privacy,” said Ting. “Independent, substantial evidence - beyond an FRT match - will still be necessary for an arrest and conviction.”

Right now, there are no limitations on how California’s law enforcement agencies can use FRT. That’s because Ting’s previous bill, AB 1215, sunset in January 2023, making it critical for the state to establish reasonable legal standards for its use among law enforcement. AB 642 proposes to:

  • Prohibit the issuance of an arrest/search warrant or affidavit, based solely on an FRT-generated match
  • Require agencies/departments that have FRTs to use algorithms that have been evaluated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • Compel agencies/departments to adopt written policies governing the use of FRT
  • Mandate annual reporting of the above and make them publicly available

“Facial recognition technology is an important tool for public safety, but there must be clear limits spelled out for its use,” said Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), Principal Co-author of AB 642. “AB 642 strikes the right balance by protecting against the abusive and discriminatory use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement, while allowing its use to solve serious crimes like human trafficking and child exploitation.”

FRT has been instrumental in solving cases, such as shootings, kidnapping and human trafficking. According to the federal government’s NIST, ongoing research has shown industrywide progress in terms of accuracy, making significant strides since FRT was put to the test in 2019 and falsely matched more than two dozen California lawmakers with photos from an arrest database.

“Facial recognition technology, when used properly, has an unprecedented ability to assist law enforcement in solving crimes and protecting our communities,” state Chris Catren, President of the California Police Chiefs Association. “CPCA would like to thank Assemblymember Ting for working collaboratively towards create meaningful protections in AB 642 that still allow law enforcement to use this tool effectively.”

Even with advances in the technology, there is still the potential of misidentification. Ting believes it’s best to regulate law enforcement use of FRT. Several states, including Virginia, Montana, Colorado and Vermont, agree and have also been working to do the same. AB 642 is expected to be heard in Assembly Public Safety on March 28.

The video of the press conference can be found here.

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