UPDATE: On June 27, 2019, the Somerville City Council unanimously voted to pass an ordinance banning city government use of face surveillance technology. Somerville is now the first community on the East Coast to prohibit government use of face recognition surveillance technology, joining a growing nationwide movement to bring the technology under democratic control.


Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, today released the following statement in response to the City of Somerville’s Legislative Matters Committee vote to move forward a proposed ban on city government use of face surveillance technology:

“Massachusetts voters agree: We must ensure face surveillance technology doesn’t get out ahead of our basic rights. We can’t afford to sit by idly while the technology further outpaces our civil liberties protections and harms privacy, racial and gender justice, and freedom of speech. The ACLU of Massachusetts applauds the City of Somerville’s bold leadership for becoming the first community on the East Coast to consider prohibiting government use of dystopian face surveillance technology. Massachusetts must also lead the nation by passing a statewide moratorium until there are safeguards in place. It’s time to press pause on face surveillance in Massachusetts.”

Background:

The ACLU of Massachusetts last week launched “Press Pause on Face Surveillance,” a new campaign 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.

A new ACLU poll shows 91 percent (91%) of Massachusetts voters think the Commonwealth needs to regulate the government’s ongoing use of face surveillance technology. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of voters support a moratorium to press pause on government use of face surveillance technology, which is currently unregulated in Massachusetts.

An ACLU-backed bill currently before Massachusetts 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. According to the poll, the moratorium enjoys wide bipartisan voter support: Eighty-four percent (84%) of Democrats, 82 percent (82%) of Independents, and 50 percent (50%) of Republicans favor the moratorium currently before Massachusetts legislators.

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