In two reports published today, Georgetown University Law School's Center on Privacy and Technology joins the ACLU of Massachusetts in calling for a moratorium on the government’s use of face surveillance technology, citing alarming new findings about law enforcement's use of the tool nationwide.

The ACLU of Massachusetts today released the following statements in response to the new reports:

“People often think of facial recognition as objective science, but Georgetown’s findings show law enforcement is using the technology in highly subjective ways, by running scans against police sketches of suspects, by editing photos to combine facial features from different people, and in some cases even melding two faces into one,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “These practices—which are occurring largely in the dark, and absent any regulation—should concern every freedom-loving person. Georgetown’s reports underscore the urgent need for the Massachusetts state legislature to pass a moratorium to press pause on the government’s use of face surveillance technology.”

“In a free society, you shouldn’t be tracked by the government as you visit the doctor, seek mental health or substance use treatment, worship your religion, or attend a political meeting. But face surveillance enables persistent, constant tracking of not one person’s First Amendment protected activity, but every person’s—and not on just one day, but on all days,” said Kade Crockford, director of the ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Program. “That’s exactly what is happening in Detroit and Chicago, and we need to make sure it doesn’t spread to the Bay State. Right here in Massachusetts, we’ve uncovered documents that show private companies are going to great lengths to use our communities as testing grounds for this very type of authoritarian surveillance. That’s why from San Francisco to Somerville, local governments are stepping up to ban the use of these technologies by government entities. Until the state legislature adopts a moratorium, that’s the only way we can make sure the types of abuses laid out in Georgetown’s reports aren’t occurring here in the Commonwealth.”

 

Background:

Garbage In, Garbage Out: Face Recognition on Flawed Data (www.flawedfacedata.com) exposes for the first time how numerous police agencies, including the New York Police Department, misuse face recognition systems by feeding them photos of celebrities and photos that have been heavily doctored through editing tools that can fabricate facial features.

America Under Watch: Face Surveillance in the United States (www.americaunderwatch.com) reveals that police agencies in Detroit and Chicago have purchased citywide face surveillance networks that are capable of scanning the faces of city residents in real time as they walk down the street. 

Click here for more information about An Act Relative to Unregulated Face Recognition and Emerging Biometric Surveillance Technologies.

 

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