The Worcester City Council today voted unanimously to pass an ordinance that bans municipal government agencies from acquiring or using face recognition technology. Worcester is the eighth municipality in Massachusetts to ban government use of face surveillance, joining Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Easthampton, Northampton, Springfield, and Somerville—as well as other major cities around the country, including San Francisco, New Orleans, and Portland, Oregon.
Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, released the following statement in response:
“We applaud the Worcester City Manager and City Council for taking this sensible and necessary step to protect city residents from invasive tracking with secretive and often biased face surveillance technology. With the passage of this ordinance, almost 1.5 million Bay Staters are now protected by municipal face surveillance bans, including residents of the Commonwealth’s four largest cities—Boston, Cambridge, Worcester, and Springfield. We hope state lawmakers will take note, and will finish the job they started last session by passing comprehensive legislation to regulate government use of this dangerous technology.”
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 and Bellingham, 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
For more information about the ACLU of Massachusetts, go to: http://www.aclum.org