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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.