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UCLA decides not to implement facial recognition technology after student backlash

UCLA has decided against employing facial recognition software in campus security systems. Michael Beck, UCLA’s administrative vice chancellor, said in an emailed statement that community concerns outweigh the technology’s potential benefits. (Daanish Bhatti/Daily Bruin)

By Sameera Pant, Julia Shapero, and Saumya Gupta

Feb. 19, 2020 8:03 pm

UCLA has backed down on including facial recognition software in its campus surveillance system after backlash from students. 

An interim policy draft on security cameras at UCLA included language on using facial recognition software in order to identify individuals with campus exclusion orders. News of the proposed change prompted opposition at a student-run town hall in January.

Interim Policy 133, announced September 2018, seeks to regulate the usage of security cameras on campus. The policy plans to centralize the storage of data from security cameras, which would allow university police to use the data in emergencies.

UCLA is working to modify the policy to explicitly prohibit the use of facial recognition technology, said UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez in an emailed statement.

This is not the first time the policy has faced opposition from students. Administrators have met with students several times in the last two years to address student concerns with Policy 133.  

Students at the gatherings opposed the policy over concerns of privacy. Additionally, some said the proposed location of cameras could deter some students, including undocumented and LGBTQ+ students, from accessing campus resources out of fear of being put in danger because of their sexuality or legal status. 

Students also said that using cameras to police hate crime would not be as effective as institutional efforts to empower students often affected by these crimes. 

One of the students who helped organize the January town hall, Salvador Martinez, said in an emailed statement that facial recognition software should not be in buildings where students of color access sensitive services.

“UCLA administrators thought they could sneak in a policy that would disproportionately affect students of color and people from over-policed communities,” wrote Martinez, a fourth-year applied mathematics student.

UCLA will adopt Policy 133 in early 2020, according to UCLA Administrative Policies & Procedures. 

Michael Beck, UCLA’s administrative vice chancellor, reaffirmed that UCLA will not be employing facial recognition technology on campus in an emailed statement. 

“We have determined that the potential benefits are limited and vastly outweighed by the concerns of our campus community,” Beck said.

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Sameera Pant
Pant is the assistant News editor for Science and Health. She was previously a News contributor. Pant is a second-year economics student who enjoys writing about sustainability and public health.
Pant is the assistant News editor for Science and Health. She was previously a News contributor. Pant is a second-year economics student who enjoys writing about sustainability and public health.
Julia Shapero | Assistant News editor
Shapero is an assistant News editor in the National News & Higher Education beat. She was previously a contributor for the National News & Higher Education beat. Shapero is a third-year political science student who enjoys covering national and statewide news.
Shapero is an assistant News editor in the National News & Higher Education beat. She was previously a contributor for the National News & Higher Education beat. Shapero is a third-year political science student who enjoys covering national and statewide news.
Saumya Gupta | Assistant News editor
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