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What Law Enforcement Should Know Before Using Facial Recognition Technology in California

By Clearview AI BLOG

Contrary to common misconceptions, Californian law enforcement and other government agencies can generally use facial recognition technology (FRT). We love the Golden State and its beauty, and in this blog post we’ll give a brief overview of what you should know before using facial recognition technology (FRT) in California!

While some cities, such as San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland have existing moratoriums on facial recognition use by law enforcement, a statewide ban on FRT does not exist in California. In connection therewith, it is generally permissible for law enforcement and government agencies in California to lawfully use FRT while carrying out their official duties. The California Privacy Rights Act (“CPRA”), formerly the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”), which takes effect January 1, 2023, does not proscribe the use of facial recognition technology by government and law enforcement agencies in California.

This blog post outlines some of the restrictions and how Clearview AI empowers law enforcement agencies in California with built-in compliance features for increased oversight, accountability, and transparency so your agency can start using FRT in a responsible way to help combat crime and keep your community safe!

CALIFORNIA AB 1215 (2019)

In 2019 California enacted AB 1215, a temporary moratorium on the law enforcement use of FRT and other biometric surveillance in connection with body-worn cameras, including the camera footage. This moratorium expires on January 1, 2023, and an attempt to extend the moratorium failed during the 2022 Californian legislative session. Even when that moratorium was enacted, it only applies to the use of FRT in connection with body-worn cameras and does not prevent the general use of FRT tools for other after-the-fact investigative uses, such as Clearview AI’s technology platform.


While some cities and counties have existing restrictions on the use of FRT by law enforcement officials, the rationale behind this lawmaking was premised on myths and misunderstandings about FRT. By way of example, San Francisco enacted a moratorium in June of 2019 over concerns of inaccuracies when using FRT to identify individuals with darker skin tones. While Clearview AI has demonstrated that accuracy is not compromised based on skin tone, this moratorium still remains in place in San Francisco as well as Oakland, Alamada, Berkeley and Santa Cruz.

Other jurisdictions (such as Davis, Palo Alto, Santa Clara County, and San Diego) do not have an outright ban on the use of FRT, however, they have each legislated various procedures that an agency must follow to lawfully use the technology. Such procedures include obtaining approval, usually from a city council or other government body, prior to procurement and use.

If you are located in these jurisdictions, we are willing to provide an overview on the latest developments of our emerging technology to help brief you on the legal, policy and regulatory landscape.


Unlike other FRT providers, Clearview AI provides law enforcement with access to a database of open-source images. The Clearview AI database is subject to the CCPA. The CCPA grants certain data privacy rights to California residents, such as the right to opt-out of the sale of their personal information and the right to request what personal information has been collected about them. These rights are further expanded through the California Privacy Rights Act (“CPRA”), taking effect on January 1, 2023. Clearview AI complies with the terms of the CCPA and data deletion requests from California residents. By visiting our website, California residents are able to learn what personal information Clearview AI collects, uses, and shares with third parties as well as what rights they have with respect to the personal information that Clearview AI collects. In addition, our privacy policy contains instructions on how to submit a request to access your data, delete your data, and/or opt-out.


Clearview AI operates like a search engine by pulling and compiling only publicly available images from the internet into a database. Clearview AI does not surveil people in any way - the name, age, gender, sex, location, etc. is not collected nor known, only the image. Then, Clearview AI’s FRT algorithm processes the image and returns links to publicly available images that contain faces similar to the person pictured in the uploaded image. The most important step of the identification process is the fact that each decision about an identification is made by a human being working on or behalf of a government agency, NOT by an automatic process. In other words, independent verification is required where users must conduct further research and investigation to verify the accuracy of any search result. Search results used as a lead in an investigation must be reviewed by more than one person per organization.

Clearview AI is neither designed nor intended to be used as a single-source system for establishing the identity of an individual, and users shall not use it as such. Clearview AI merely provides the tools that may result in an investigation. That is why it is imperative, and Clearview AI takes very seriously, proper training and instruction to its users to ensure the FRT is used properly and ethically.

Even though it is not required pursuant to applicable Californian law, Clearview AI provides FRT training to its customers and routinely adds new features to its technology platform, including auditing and compliance features that supports and promotes responsible use and oversight for the deployment of facial recognition technology.

We recommend that California law enforcement agencies that adopt FRT provide additional user training and education programs on FRT, including developing and implementing a publicly available FRT use policy for their constituents to understand how it will be or is being used.

To read further about our standards and policies, please visit Clearview AI’s Principles page.


Despite the ongoing debate around FRT use by law enforcement, responsible use of FRT dramatically cuts down time spent during a criminal investigation, allowing law enforcement officials to gain back valuable time to carry out their jobs and keep communities safe.

We are continuously educating legislatures, lawmakers and policy makers around the country about how FRT is an integral tool to reduce crime and investigatory bias.

To learn more, watch Clearview AI’s Testimony at California State Assembly Public Safety Committee, delivered on August 9th in 2022.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Information in this article may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Readers of this article should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No reader, user, or recipient of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information in this article without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation.


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