The City of Springfield tonight voted to pass a moratorium on the municipal use of face surveillance technology. Springfield now joins four other Massachusetts municipalities—Cambridge, Northampton, Brookline, and Somerville—which passed bans earlier this year.
Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, released the following statement in response:
“This is not a moment; this is a movement. Across the Commonwealth, cities and towns are taking action to ensure that face surveillance technology doesn’t get out ahead of our basic rights. Studies continue to demonstrate that face surveillance technology is biased on race, gender, and age—and far from ready for government use. Accurate or not, face surveillance threatens our most basic rights, enabling governments to identify who attends protests, church, or AA meetings on an unprecedented scale. We are grateful for the Springfield City Council’s leadership on this issue. Now, it’s time for the Massachusetts legislature to press pause on this technology.”
The ACLU of Massachusetts launched the “Press Pause on Face Surveillance” campaign in June 2019 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, Northampton, Brookline, and Somerville are taking action to bring this technology under democratic control by introducing and enacting municipal prohibitions on government use.