Legislation Could Impact Vehicle Licensing, Facial Recognition

They're currently in committee, but if the Legislature approves them later this year, two state Assembly bills would offer residents electronic alternatives to license plates and registrations, and clarify their rights in the area of facial recognition.

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They’re still in early stages, but two bills now being considered by the Legislature could impact how Californians license their vehicles, and codify their rights with respect to facial recognition.

Assembly Bill 2770, introduced by Assemblymember Mike Gipson, D-Carson, would “authorize the use of alternative devices intended to serve in lieu of license plates.” It has been introduced and referred to the Assembly Committee on Transportation. AB 2261, introduced by Assemblymember Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park, and focused on facial recognition technology, would give consumers rights to their own personal information (PI), including the right to require a business to delete it. It has been introduced and referred to the Assembly committees on Privacy and Consumer Protection, and Judiciary. Among the takeaways:

• AB 2770 is an outgrowth of an alternative registration products pilot program conducted by DMV “to evaluate the use of alternatives” to DMV-issued license plates and registration cards and stickers. The goal, according to an August report on the pilot, was “to allow DMV to collaborate with the private sector to develop innovative ways to better serve customers” while cutting processing and mailing costs.

“This aligns with efforts to modernize the DMV,” the agency said in the report. A public information officer said the agency does not comment on pending legislation.

In the pilot, DMV worked with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to test electronic registration cards, license plate wraps and a digital license plate. Participation in each format grew exponentially, with digital license plates projected to reach roughly 1,500 vehicles by the pilot’s end. No significant concerns came to light, and DMV said it believes the products “can be feasibly implemented through a collaborative effort amongst all impacted stakeholders,” and recommends that the products “be fully authorized in statute for permanent use.”

The proposed statute, AB 2770, would require DMV to set up a program “authorizing an entity to issue alternatives to stickers, tabs, license plates, and registration cards,” under specified conditions including CHP approval. It would also require the entity in question to submit a business plan to DMV.

• AB 2261, which builds on the California Consumer Privacy Act, would require a “processor” providing facial recognition services to also make available an app or other tool to enable “controllers or third parties” to test its services for accuracy. It would also require a “controller” to post notice whenever facial recognition is deployed in a “physical presence open to the public,” and would require the controller get residents’ consent before acquiring their image, unless it’s for “a security or safety purpose as specified.” The bill would let residents discover whether a controller has acquired their image or “facial template” via facial recognition at a public place, and would give them the right to challenge that and have that image deleted.

The bill would also require a state or local agency intending to “develop, procure or use” a facial recognition service to let the public know at least 90 days before. It would also require agencies using facial recognition with “legal” or “significant” effects to train the people running the facial recognition service, and ensure decisions “are subject to meaningful human review.”

The legislation "would prohibit an agency from using a facial recognition service to engage in ongoing surveillance, unless specified conditions are met relating to a law enforcement investigation of a serious criminal offense,” according to its language. Violation of the bill’s provisions could result in injunctions and penalties ranging from $2,500 to $7,500.

Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.