Fighting the creep of government use of face surveillance and the related risks can seem overwhelming. Police agencies, and the spy tech vendors that profit from the growth of a surveillance state, have much to gain by deploying this invasive spying technology. 

But there is good news: cities and towns across the US have already fought and won groundbreaking bans on government use of face surveillance technology, proving that when we stand together our potential is limitless. 

To support your community’s effort toward banning government use of face surveillance technology, we at EFF have compiled this toolkit to help you prepare for meetings with your local lawmakers and other community partners. 

We want to hear about your local effort, and support coalition-building in your community. Please email us at with your success stories (don’t forget to count the small wins along the way), creative ideas, and even the hurdles you’ve encountered and are working to overcome.

Together, we can do this. We can’t afford not to.

Media Tips for Activist Groups
Model Legislation

Ban on government use of face surveillance:

A model bill

Section 1. Definitions.

a. “Face surveillance” means an automated or semi-automated process that assists in identifying or verifying an individual, or captures information about them, based on the physical characteristics of their face.

b. “Face surveillance system” means any computer software or application that performs face surveillance.

c. “__ [name of government unit]” means any department, agency, bureau, and/or subordinate division of __ [name of government unit].

d. “__ [name of government unit] official” means any person or entity acting on behalf of __ [name of government unit], including any officer, employee, agent, contractor, subcontractor, or vendor.

Section 2. Ban on government use of face surveillance.

It shall be unlawful for __ [name of government unit] or any __ [name of government unit] official to obtain, retain, access, or use:

a. any face surveillance system; or

b. any information obtained from any face surveillance system.

Section 3. Enforcement

a. Suppression. No data collected or derived from any use of face surveillance in violation of this law, and no evidence derived therefrom, may be received in evidence in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding in or before any court, grand jury, department, officer, agency, regulatory body, legislative committee, or other authority subject to the jurisdiction of __ [name of government unit]. Data collected or derived in violation of this law shall be considered unlawfully obtained, and shall be deleted upon discovery.

b. Private cause of action.

i. Any violation of this law constitutes an injury and any person may institute proceedings for injunctive relief, declaratory relief, or writ of mandate in any court of competent jurisdiction to enforce this law. An action instituted under this paragraph shall be brought against __ [name of government unit].

ii. Any person who has been subjected to face surveillance in violation of this law, or about whom information has been obtained, retained, accessed, or used in violation of this law, may institute proceedings in any court of competent jurisdiction against __ [name of government unit] and shall be entitled to recover actual damages, but not less than liquidated damages of $1,000 or $100 for each violation, whichever is greater.

iii. A court shall award costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees to a plaintiff who is the prevailing party in an action brought under Section 3(b)(i) or 3(b)(ii).

c. Training and discipline. Violations of this law by an employee of __ [name of government unit] shall result in consequences that may include retraining, suspension, or termination, subject to due process requirements.


Laws and bills against government use of face surveillance

San Francisco (CA) ordinance:

Somerville (MA) ordinance:

Oakland (CA) ordinance:

A State of California bill (AB 1215):

A Commonwealth of Massachusetts bill (S 1385):

A State of Washington bill (HB 1654):

A Berkeley (CA) bill:

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