SAN FRANCISCO – A state audit in August confirmed that CalGang facial recognition has numerous errors and inaccuracies and could be a breach of individuals' privacy. CalGang, the gang database used by 58 California police agencies, logs individuals with alleged ties to criminal gang activities in hopes of decreasing the crime rate in the state.
"Law enforcement personnel are collecting much more information that they have before" with the CalGang database, Irene Rojas-Carroll, communications associate with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, told the Northern California Record.
Officers "can look up a person in the CalGang database," Rojas-Carroll explained. She went on to say that although the database tracks gang action, it cannot be used at trial, especially for evidence, but the technology is gaining traction.
"Part of the problem is that it shifts focus off of crimes." she said. "There are many reasons to be concerned." One of the issues with the database is that individuals of interest are not being deleted or their records updated, according to the ACLU of Northern California. For example, the group's August press release says the state audit confirmed that African-Americans and young children were heavily represented in the database and those especially were not being updated. This could harm employment opportunities for those individuals, the release stated.
After individuals are added into the CalGang system, they have a right to be notified of the addition, and the state audit confirmed those notices are not being sent to individuals.
"They keep information on people who have not committed crimes," Rojas-Carroll said.
Another issue CalGang presents is a concern with accuracy, Rojas-Carroll went on to say. She noted that California law has not kept up with technology, and that police departments are allowed to set their own rules and policies in regards to using and updating CalGang.
Many departments also have body cameras that collect from CalGang software, Rojas-Carroll said. It appears, Rojas-Carrolled noted, that the police personnel are not only using CalGang for its intended purpose of tracking gang activity, but for other situations as well, which she said is a breach of individuals' privacy and a failure to adhere to federal regulations for protecting criminal intelligence information.
Rojas-Carroll said the Legislature should consider the best way to handle CalGang. The ACLU of Northern California is calling for a "complete overhaul of the CalGang system if we are to ensure Californians’ rights are protected."