san diego police

Due To New Law, San Diego’s Law Enforcement Facial Recognition Program Will End in 2020

Thanks to a statewide policy banning law enforcement use of facial recognition for three years, several agencies in San Diego will lose access to a database of facial scans.

More than 30 agencies in San Diego County, Calif. will drop their use of a facial recognition platform on Jan. 1, 2020 after sustained outcry from civil liberties groups in the area.

The Tactical Identification System (TACIDS) was launched in 2012 and aimed to give local, state and federal agencies a common database of facial scans, according to ZDNet. Officers could use their phones or tablets to conduct searches and help them identify “uncooperative persons” and people of interest in their cases. People with outstanding warrants were also included in the system.

The demise of TACIDS stems from the passage of a law, AB 1215, in September that bans law enforcement agencies from using facial recognition software for three years. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which found that over 65,000 scans were performed by officers between 2016 and 2018, sent a letter to the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) demanding that the agency comply with the new law.

Now, the SANDAG has published an agenda showing that the program will be suspended on Jan. 1 and that the agency’s agreement with software company FaceFirst will not be renewed after it expires in March.

“While the TACIDS program does not provide cameras or devices that function autonomously to collect ongoing surveillance information, AB 1215 also prohibits an automated or semiautomated process that analyzes biometric data in connection with data collected by an officer camera,” Pam Scanlon, the head of SANDAG’s Automated Regional Justice Information System (ARJIS), wrote in the agenda.

Scanlon added: “ARJIS will notify all law enforcement partners that TACIDS access will be suspended, which will include removal of the TACIDS Booking Photo interface and all user access to TACIDS systems.”

Officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) refused to sign and comply with the latest guidance from the California Department of Justice on how government agencies can use shared databases in immigration case, according to Scanlon. That means that their access to the facial recognition system has also been removed.

The EFF declared victory in a blog post celebrating the end of the program and the foundation’s efforts to combat government use of facial recognition software in investigations.

“We just stopped one of the largest, longest running, and most controversial face recognition programs operated by local law enforcement in the United States,” Dave Maass, a senior investigative researcher for the EFF, wrote. “The end of San Diego’s program marks a major victory in the nationwide battle against face surveillance.”

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