Facebook today announced it will shut down its face recognition system and delete the faceprints of more than 1 billion people. In recent years, Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM have also heeded ACLU and other activists’ calls, pausing or stopping the sale of their face recognition products to law enforcement.

Kade Crockford, Technology for Liberty program director at the ACLU of Massachusetts, today released the following statement in response:

“Tech companies like Facebook acknowledge that there are concerns with face recognition technology. Indeed, these technologies threaten our privacy and basic freedoms. This announcement is an important step in the right direction, but pledges from a handful of companies are not enough. Across the nation, lawmakers must do more to protect all people from this dystopian technology. Here in Massachusetts, we must strengthen existing regulations to ensure that government agencies cannot use face surveillance to track every person's activities in public places, that Black men are no longer exposed to increased risk of false arrest due to the technology, and that defendants have access to information about face surveillance searches when the technology is used in criminal investigations leading to their arrest or prosecution.”


Launched in 2019, the ACLU of Massachusetts’ “Press Pause on Face Surveillance” campaign has built 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 seven municipal bans on and limited statewide regulations of police use of the technology.

The ACLU backs a bill, introduced by Senator Cynthia Creem and Representatives Dave Rogers and Orlando Ramos, that would protect millions of people 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.

The ACLU is leading a nationwide movement to defend privacy rights and civil liberties against the threat of unregulated face recognition surveillance. As part of ACLU-led campaigns, multiple jurisdictions have prohibited police use of face recognition technology, including San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland, California; Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Easthampton, Northampton, Springfield, and Somerville, Massachusetts; New Orleans, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; Portland, Maine; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Portland, Oregon; King County, Washington; and the states of Virginia, Vermont, and Maine. New York state also suspended use of face recognition in schools and California suspended its use with police-worn body cameras.

For more information about “Press Pause on Face Surveillance,” go to: http://www.aclum.org/presspause