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.