The Boston City Council today voted unanimously to pass a ban on city government use of face surveillance technology, becoming the second largest city in the world to do so. Boston now joins five other Massachusetts municipalities—Springfield, Cambridge, Northampton, Brookline, and Somerville—which passed bans over the past year.
ACLU of Massachusetts executive director Carol Rose released the following statement in response:
“To effectively address police abuses and systemic racism, we must address the tools that exacerbate those long-standing crises. Face surveillance supercharges the policing of Black and brown communities and tramples on everyone’s rights to anonymity and privacy. The ACLU is grateful that Boston now joins five other Massachusetts municipalities that have banned government use of this technology. Together, these local bans strengthen the civil liberties of more than 1 million Massachusetts residents, protecting them from intrusive, flawed technologies. Everyone who lives in Massachusetts deserves these protections; it’s time for the Massachusetts legislature to press pause on this technology by passing a statewide moratorium on government use of face surveillance.”
At-Large Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu released the following statement in response:
“Boston should not use racially discriminatory technology that threatens the privacy and basic rights of our residents. This ordinance codifies our values that community trust is the foundation for public safety and public health. I’m proud of the Boston City Council for leading the way alongside community advocates to pass policies ensuring transparent, accountable, community oversight of surveillance.”
District 5 Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo released the following statement in response:
“While face surveillance is a danger to all people, no matter the color of their skin, the technology is a particularly serious threat to Black and brown people. Especially now, as communities are demanding real change from their elected officials, we need to proactively ensure that we do not invest in technology that studies show is ineffective and furthers systemic racism."
Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang released the following statement in response:
“Face surveillance in schools threatens to exacerbate the school-to-prison pipeline, including policing in schools. Schools need to be safe and welcoming environments for all, and this would put our students’ welfare, educational opportunities, and life trajectories at risk by further diminishing both their privacy and trust in schools.
“Face surveillance software also harms immigrant families. Immigrants are already fearful of engagement with public institutions, and face surveillance systems would further chill student and parent participation in our schools.”
Muslim Justice League executive director Fatema Ahmad released the following statement in response:
“Our communities have long been subject to discriminatory surveillance. Today marks the beginning of a new era in Boston. We will no longer tolerate government agencies using our resources to deploy dystopian surveillance technology in secret.”
Student Immigrant Movement lead coordinator Valeria Do Vale released the following statement in response:
“This tremendous victory is a first step towards making sure that Boston truly stands for marginalized communities including undocumented immigrants who are always left behind. This shows that we can hold police accountable not just when injustices are committed but also before they even happen. Sigue la lucha!”