By Shirin Rajaee

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Lawmakers are sounding the alarm over flaws in facial recognition technology.

“One false match is too many, especially when people’s lives [are] at stake, when their freedom is at stake,” said a supporter of AB 1215 during a Tuesday morning press conference.

In a recent test, 26 state lawmakers were falsely identified as criminals when their photos were compared with mug shots of people who’d been arrested.

The ACLU put the technology to the test to prove a point that it’s flawed and that it can and will misidentify people. The fear is that it will put already vulnerable communities at risk.

“There are real people who could have real impacts,” said Assemblymen Phil Ting.

Ting and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer were among the state legislators falsely identified.

“Too often minorities are confused for others,” said Sawyer.

Out of 120 lawmakers, 1 out of 5 lawmakers was mistakenly matched when their pictures were put up against a database of 25,000 publicly available booking photos.

“What’s troubling is, while this was an exercise, if this was actually used for law enforcement purposes you could have 26 people falsely accused of a crime, falsely arrested for a crime,” said Ting.

Ting is now leading the effort with a bill to ban the use of facial recognition software specifically on police-worn body cameras.

“It’s particularly problematic for identifying women and people of color,” said Kevin Baker from the ACLU.

Baker says at a time when police and community relations are already so tense, adding flawed technology on body cameras can be dangerous.

“Of course, if law enforcement thinks someone approaching them is a criminal and not a member of the legislature they could react differently,” said Baker.

But some law enforcement agencies argue the ban is premature.

Ronald Lawrence, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, released this statement:

“Cal Chiefs is opposed to AB 1215 because we believe a ban on this technology is premature, and could prevent law enforcement from utilizing what could potentially become a very useful tool later down the road. Facial recognition software only helps narrow the pool of potential suspects, but does not make the final determination – only a trained peace officer can make the final call,” Lawrence wrote.

But for many, the potential consequences of a mistake could be the difference between life and death.

Both the Sacramento police and sheriff’s departments have facial recognition software, but not on body-worn cameras.

Ting said no city in California has yet deployed this software on body cameras

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office said the software is an important law enforcement tool, especially when policing large events.

Shirin Rajaee

Comments