• Part of
    Ubiquity Network logo
    Join mailing list Press Brochure

    Read Chapter
  • No readable formats available
  • 'Not Ready for Prime Time': Biometrics and Biopolitics in the (Un)Making of California’s Facial Recognition Ban

    Asvatha Babu Saif Shahin

    Chapter from the book: Verdegem, P. 2021. AI for Everyone?: Critical Perspectives.


    Facial recognition is one of the most contentious applications of artificial intelligence. In 2019, the US state of California passed The Body Camera Accountability Act (AB-1215), banning police from using facial recognition technology on body cameras for three years. This article traces the trajectory of AB-1215 as a social discourse from its first reading until it was signed into law through a close reading of legislative documents, industry reports, civil society releases, and media coverage. Specifically, we investigate why the ban, initially intended to be permanent, was reduced and identify the actors shaping the discourse surrounding the bill. While initial criticism of facial recognition from lawmakers and civil society emphasised its potential to exacerbate discrimination against minorities and people of colour, we find that these critics later shifted their justification for a ban on the low accuracy of the technology itself. This allowed proponents of using facial recognition, including manufacturers and police lobbies, to contend that the technology was not only more accurate than human recognition but could be improved in coming years – undercutting the need for a permanent ban. Drawing on our analysis, we conclude that opposition to algorithmic governance should be biopolitical rather than technology-centred to be effective.

    Chapter Metrics:

    How to cite this chapter
    Babu A. & Shahin S. 2021. 'Not Ready for Prime Time': Biometrics and Biopolitics in the (Un)Making of California’s Facial Recognition Ban. In: Verdegem, P (ed.), AI for Everyone?. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book55.m

    This chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives 4.0 license. Copyright is retained by the author(s)

    Peer Review Information

    This book has been peer reviewed. See our Peer Review Policies for more information.

    Additional Information

    Published on Sept. 20, 2021