The Special Commission to Evaluate Government Use of Facial Recognition Technology in the Commonwealth today released a report recommending the Massachusetts Legislature adopt new reforms on face surveillance. The recommendations include strengthening existing law to centralize all police use of the technology, require a warrant for police facial recognition searches, limit searches to felony investigations, prohibit the use of facial recognition technology for surveillance and emotion analysis, and institute due process protections.
Kade Crockford, Technology for Liberty program director at the ACLU of Massachusetts, released the following statement in response:
“After more than a year of study and deliberation, the Commission has concluded Massachusetts needs tighter regulation on face surveillance technology in order to protect Bay Staters’ civil liberties and community safety. The ACLU of Massachusetts is proud to support these recommendations, which balance law enforcement interests and civil rights. It is critical to get this balance right because face surveillance technology poses profound and unprecedented threats to our privacy and other basic freedoms—and is particularly dangerous for communities of color and other marginalized groups. We thank Commission co-chairs Representative Michael Day and Senator Jamie Eldridge for their leadership. It was an honor to participate in such a thorough, thoughtful, open, and well-run public examination of these critical issues. We also thank Representatives David Rogers and Orlando Ramos and Senator Cindy Creem for their steadfast commitment to improving existing statewide policy. These recommendations provide a balanced framework for strong legislation; we look forward to continued collaboration with the legislature to pass comprehensive legislation to regulate government use of this invasive technology.”
The ACLU of Massachusetts launched its “Press Pause on Face Surveillance” campaign in 2019, building awareness about the civil liberties concerns posed by face surveillance and the need to bring government use of the technology under democratic control. The campaign has so far led to eight municipal bans on face surveillance, and limited statewide regulation of police use of the technology.
In 2020, Massachusetts lawmakers advanced groundbreaking legislation to regulate government use of facial recognition technology. Ultimately, however, Governor Baker signed weaker regulation into law. As a result, the existing statute does not sufficiently protect racial justice, privacy, or due process. The Legislature and Governor Baker also agreed to establish the Special Commission to explore more stringent regulation of the government’s use of face surveillance.
The ACLU backs a new bill, introduced by Senator Creem and Representatives Rogers and Ramos, that would protect all Massachusetts residents and visitors from this intrusive, biased technology. The bill would prohibit government agencies from using face surveillance to track or monitor people in places like schools, libraries, parks, and municipal buildings; require police to obtain a warrant before conducting a face recognition search, except in emergency situations; and establish due process protections for criminal defendants subjected to face recognition searches.
For more information about “Press Pause on Face Surveillance,” go to: http://www.aclum.org/presspause