September 23, 2019

“Press Pause on Face Surveillance,” an ACLU campaign to pass a statewide moratorium on the government’s use of face surveillance technology, today announced another round of endorsements, including high-profile gender justice advocacy groups.

Five gender justice organizations today announced their support for the ACLU of Massachusetts campaign and a Massachusetts moratorium on government use of face surveillance technology. Advocacy groups Jane Doe Inc., League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, and YWCA Massachusetts now join nearly 50 other organizations that back the “Press Pause on Face Surveillance” campaign.

“Jane Doe Inc. supports a pause on the use of facial recognition technology in the Commonwealth both because the technology is flawed, with potentially dangerous implications for the lives and rights of Black and Brown people, and because of the unknown, unintended risks for people who experience sexual and domestic violence,” said Adrienne Ramcharan, Policy Coordinator of Jane Doe Inc. “We believe that all survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence should feel safe accessing services without fear of being wrongfully identified or having their activity monitored.”

"The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts is concerned that the concepts of personal privacy and of being secure in one’s person are being radically altered by modern digital technologies,” said Mary Ann Ashton, co-president of League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. “These technologies are everywhere, moving faster than is the understanding of them, the analysis of their impact, or their regulation regarding privacy concerns. We need a moratorium on all deployment of these technologies until we have developed sound regulations.”

The ACLU of Massachusetts recently launched “Press Pause on Face Surveillance” to build awareness about the civil liberties concerns posed by face surveillance technology and the need to pass a statewide moratorium on the government’s use of the technology. Studies show that face surveillance has higher error rates when classifying Black women, and treats gender in a trans-exclusionary manner.

“The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition supports the ‘Press Pause on Face Surveillance’ campaign because face surveillance technologies have proven to not only reinforce racial and gender bias, but consistently misgender transgender individuals,” said Tre'Andre Valentine, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. “Transgender people are disproportionally impacted by race and gender bias, especially Black and Brown transgender women. Unregulated government use of face surveillance technology will only further the disproportionate chance of interaction with law enforcement, increasing our communities' vulnerability to violence and incarceration.”

An ACLU poll shows 79 percent of 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, Somerville, and Brookline are taking action to bring this technology under democratic control by introducing and enacting municipal bans.

“Community leaders are taking a stand against unregulated government use of face surveillance technology, and the Massachusetts legislature should sit up and take notice,” said Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Gender justice advocates are all too aware of the disproportionate risk that face surveillance poses to Black, brown, and transgender women. We are thrilled to partner with these and dozens of other organizations, along with elected leaders, to make sure this technology doesn't get out ahead of our basic rights.”

The gender justice organizations now join dozens of community, advocacy, and legal groups that support a statewide moratorium on government use of face surveillance technology. Leading tech businesses Cortex, Kairos, and ProtonMail announced their support for the campaign earlier this month.

The campaign