The town of Brookline tonight voted to pass a ban on the municipal use of face surveillance technology. Brookline now joins Somerville, Mass. and three California cities, which passed similar bans this year.
Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, released the following statement in response:
"By passing a ban on government use of face surveillance technology, the people of Brookline are standing up in defense of fundamental rights and civil liberties, including privacy, racial and gender justice, due process, and freedom of speech and association. In the absence of national action, municipal governments are taking commonsense action to protect their communities by bringing face surveillance technology under democratic control. Now, Massachusetts must also lead the nation by passing a statewide moratorium on this technology until there are civil liberties protections in place.”
In June, the ACLU of Massachusetts launched the “Press Pause on Face Surveillance” campaign to build awareness about the civil liberties concerns posed by face surveillance and the need to pass a statewide moratorium on the government’s use of the technology.
A recent poll shows nearly 8 in 10 Massachusetts voters support a moratorium on government use of face surveillance technology, which is currently unregulated in the state. An ACLU-backed bill currently before legislators on Beacon Hill would establish a statewide moratorium on government use of face surveillance and other biometric screening technologies until the legislature imposes checks and balances to protect the public’s interest. Meanwhile, municipalities like Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, and Springfield are taking action to bring this technology under democratic control by introducing and enacting municipal prohibitions on government use.
More than 50 organizations back the moratorium and ACLU campaign. At a legislative hearing in October, dozens of advocates—including the ACLU of Massachusetts, Boston Teachers Union, tech company Cortex, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, and MIT researcher Joy Buolamwini—testified in strong support of the statewide moratorium on the government’s use of the technology.