Steffi Loos/Getty Images
show image

GlobalData Technology

Providing actionable insight into the technology industry

As California bans police facial recognition, China and India double down

A facial recognition software ban on police body cameras will take effect in California at the start of 2020. A new law, which lasts for three years, bans the state’s police departments from using facial recognition software on body cameras. The ban could be extended upon expiration of the moratorium. Prior to the law’s passage, two California cities – San Francisco and Oakland – enacted similar bans.

Some law enforcement groups suggest that the ban will prevent them from using technology that could aid them in identifying crime suspects or missing persons. However, the state law’s writer contends it is important to prevent police body cameras from becoming 24-hour surveillance tools.

While the most populous US state is favouring individual privacy, China is going in the opposite direction. Starting on 1 December, the Chinese government will require telecom companies to conduct facial scans of customers for before signing them up for new internet or mobile service.

China has already created artificial intelligence-driven cameras that can pick out and identify individual faces in massive crowds. It has also produced others that use gait recognition to identify individuals based on their silhouette and manner of walking.

This surveillance expertise has become a revenue-producing export. A recent report notes that companies such as Huawei, Hikvision, Dahua, and ZTE are supplying AI-based surveillance tech in 64 countries.

India’s National Crime Records Bureau has issued an RFP (Request for Proposal) to procure a National Automated Facial Recognition System.

India’s ambitions should not be underestimated. Some 1.12 billion Indians, more than 99 per cent of adults, already have 12-digit government-issued identifiers. These are derived from the country’s Aadhaar national ID programme, a biometric ID database that compiles scans of individuals’ irises and fingerprints to confirm identities.

So, while civil libertarians hail a new California law banning the use of facial recognition software by law enforcement, it appears that some governments in other parts of the world are moving full steam ahead to mandate use of the technology in the name of public safety.

NS Tech and GlobalData are part of the same group