Santa Cruz California Bans Facial Recognition and Predictive Policing Technology


by Michael Maharrey, Activist Post:

Last month, the Santa Cruz City Council banned facial recognition and predictive policing technology in the city. The growing movement to prohibit the use of facial recognition at the state and local levels could hinder the operation of a growing national facial recognition network.

Mayor Justin Cummings introduced the ordinance. The law prohibits government use of facial recognition and predictive policing technology. The law allows for the future use of the technology, but only with explicit approval from the City Council via a resolution based on “findings that the technology and the data that informs the technology meets scientifically validated and peer-reviewed research, protects and safeguards the civil rights and liberties of all people, and will not perpetuate bias.”

On June 25, the city council approved the measure by a unanimous vote.

The city is the first in the country to ban predictive policing technology. The software uses algorithms to project where crime is more likely to occur, allowing police to focus more resources into those areas. Critics say it reinforces discriminatory policing. Matt Cagle serves as a technology and civil liberties attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

“It replicates and supercharges bias in policing by sending police to places that they’ve policed before — that is often going to be Black and brown communities,” he said.

The Santa Cruz facial recognition ban makes up part of a broader nationwide movement to limit this invasive surveillance technology at the local and state level. San FranciscoOakland, and Berkeley. have all prohibited government use of facial recognition technology, along with seven cities in Massachusetts – SomervilleNorthamptonBrooklineCambridgeSpringfieldEasthampton, and Boston.  Portland, Oregon is considering similar bans, The California governor recently signed a bill that imposes a 3-year ban on the use of the tech in conjunction with police body-worn cameras, leading to the shutdown of one of the biggest facial recognition programs in the country. The New York Assembly is considering a bill to ban facial recognition in schools and on police body cameras.


recent report revealed that the federal government has turned state drivers’ license photos into a giant facial recognition database, putting virtually every driver in America in a perpetual electronic police lineup. The revelations generated widespread outrage, but this story isn’t new. The federal government has been developing a massive, nationwide facial recognition system for years.

The FBI rolled out a nationwide facial-recognition program in the fall of 2014, with the goal of building a giant biometric database with pictures provided by the states and corporate friends.

In 2016, the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law released “The Perpetual Lineup,” a massive report on law enforcement use of facial recognition technology in the U.S. You can read the complete report at The organization conducted a year-long investigation and collected more than 15,000 pages of documents through more than 100 public records requests. The report paints a disturbing picture of intense cooperation between the federal government, and state and local law enforcement to develop a massive facial recognition database.

“Face recognition is a powerful technology that requires strict oversight. But those controls, by and large, don’t exist today,” report co-author Clare Garvie said. “With only a few exceptions, there are no laws governing police use of the technology, no standards ensuring its accuracy, and no systems checking for bias. It’s a wild west.”

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