As concerns grow about the use of facial recognition and how it infringes on the rights of citizens, the state of California is one step closer to passing legislation prohibiting the use of facial recognition technology on body cameras worn by police officers in the field. The California facial recognition ban is expected to be signed by Governor Gavin Newsom and will effectively stop the technology from being used on body cameras for a period of three years.
The bill was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has led the charge against facial recognition technology over its inaccuracy and invasiveness. Last month, the ACLU conducted an experiment utilizing Amazon’s Rekognition software with California’s legislators.
The software incorrectly identified 26 legislators against a database of 25,000 mug shots. The ACLU believes this proves the technology faulty, but Amazon begs to differ, telling the Los Angeles Times the technology wasn’t utilized correctly.
Further, in a statement, Amazon said, “The ACLU is once again knowingly misusing and misrepresenting Amazon Rekognition to make headlines. As we’ve said many times in the past, when used with the recommended 99% confidence threshold and as one part of a human-driven decision, facial recognition technology can be used for a long list of beneficial purposes.”
Law enforcement groups agree the technology has many benefits, citing incidents like the Boston Marathon bombing where video footage was integral to apprehending suspects. Proponents of the technology insist facial recognition software is simply a tool that enables law enforcement to do their work in a quicker and more efficient manner, which can be critical like in the case of missing children or human trafficking.
Facial recognition software companies concur and insist that banning the technology is not the answer, “Taking this tool away from investigative environments will result in much more time and money spent on using traditional methods. Some investigations will be terminated due to lack of lead or time constraints,” Elke Oberg, Marketing Manager for Cognitec Systems, the German-based industry leader in facial recognition technology tells Parentology.
The ACLU stands firm in its belief that facial recognition technology infringes on American’s rights, specifically those in the minority. Earlier this year, the ACLU of Northern California told Parentology, “You can’t build a face recognition system for investigative purposes that can’t also be used for unprecedented mass surveillance. History shows that if we put this technology in government hands, agencies like police or ICE will inevitably use it to target communities of color, round up immigrants, and track people in their daily, private lives.”
If passed the bill only allows for a three-year moratorium. The fear of the ACLU and the hope of the software companies is the same: in three years the technology will be more accurate and perceived as less of a threat to privacy. Time will tell if Americans are willing to accept facial recognition technology as a standard for law enforcement.