California has signed AB 1215, The Body Camera Accountability Act, into law, which temporarily stops California law enforcement from adding face and other biometric surveillance technology to officer-worn body cameras for use against the public.

The legislation, which was introduced in February by Assemblymember Phil Ting, has been viewed as a building block on previous legislation that barred the use of facial recognition in San Francisco.

"Face-scanning body cameras would be a dangerous, radical expansion of police powers at a time when our top priority should be creating new approaches to public safety that work for all of us," Assemblymember Ting said in blog post describing the importance of the legislation.

Previous studies focused on the technology raised concerns about its accuracy now that it's available for use. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released test results showing that facial recognition software incorrectly “matched” 26 California state lawmakers with photos from a database of arrest photos. The results shown by the ACLU echoed previous studies that concluded that facial recognition systems are less accurate for people of color, women and children. 

“With this law, California has acted boldly to protect civil rights and civil liberties from the threats posed by an unprecedented surveillance technology,” Matt Cagle, Technology and Civil Liberties attorney at the ACLU of Northern California, said in a press release. “Rather than facilitating the expansion of a discriminatory surveillance state, California must invest its precious resources to foster free, healthy communities where everyone can feel safe – regardless of what they look like, where they’re from, how they worship, or where they live. We look forward to building on this victory and urge other legislatures to follow suit.”

The bill has been endorsed by Color of Change, the Council on American-Islamic Relations – California, Data for Black Lives, Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of California, among other groups, and is to remain in effect until January 2023.