Founded in 2013, the ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Program works to ensure that our laws keep pace with the changing digital landscape, and to protect our core civil liberties from the threats posed by novel forms of government surveillance. We are particularly concerned with the impact of biased technologies and algorithms on people of color.

Launched in 2019, our Press Pause on Face Surveillance campaign continues to build awareness about the civil liberties concerns posed by this technology and the need to bring its use by government under democratic control. To date, the campaign has led to eight municipal bans on the technology in Massachusetts, including in the Commonwealth’s four largest cities, as well as new state legislation. However, it’s not enough: we’re pursuing an even stronger bill to prevent widespread, indiscriminate face surveillance.

We advocate for consumer privacy laws, which offer some of the strongest protections against the tracking, selling, and weaponization of our personal data by tech companies. We’re working to pass a bill, modelled on Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), that would offer Bay Staters the same level of protection against the reckless and secretive exploitation of the personal data.

We are also helping cities and towns across the country to pass local ordinances that would prevent police from acquiring new surveillance technology in secret. Under these ordinances, any new acquisitions are subject to public approval by elected officials. Several municipalities—most notably Boston in 2021—have adopted these ordinances.

Through the Data for Justice Project, we are educating and empowering the public to strive for government transparency and exploring the ways in which racial and economic inequities are found in every aspect of society. This project has conducted groundbreaking analyses of the Boston Police Department’s budget, state funding of prison construction, the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, and the unequal distribution of broadband in Massachusetts.

Read more about the Technology for Liberty program at our Privacy SOS blog.

Artificial Intelligence

A.Artificial Intelligence


Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies unlock our potential to be more efficient, insightful, and effective. But left unregulated, these technologies can pose a serious threat to our privacy, facilitate discrimination, and exacerbate existing inequalities and injustices. The ACLU of Massachusetts is working with technology leaders to educate the public and lawmakers about the promise and perils of artificial intelligence, and to craft and implement appropriate laws, regulations, and policies to ensure our rights keep pace with new technologies.

Fourth Amendment Issues

A.Fourth Amendment Issues


We work to ensure a future in which the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches extends to digital property. In 2014, we won a groundbreaking victory for privacy when the state’s highest court ruled that Massachusetts state and local police must get a warrant to track our historical cell phone data. In 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled the same way in a similar ACLU case. More recently, we sued the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of 11 travelers whose smartphones and laptops were searched without warrants at the U.S. border.

Police Surveillance

A.Police Surveillance


At the local level, we are organizing in cities across the state in favor of Community Control Over Police Surveillance (CCOPS) ordinances, which aim to protect privacy, civil liberties, and the democratic process by requiring police departments to get community buy-in and local approval before using surveillance technologies. The ordinance sets up a democratic, transparent process so the public has a role in determining what types of technologies are used, and how.