“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 legal services providers and law reform advocates.
Five legal organizations today announced their support for the ACLU of Massachusetts campaign and a Massachusetts moratorium on government use of face surveillance technology. Committee for Public Counsel Services, Greater Boston Legal Services, Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, and Massachusetts Law Reform Institute now join nearly 50 other organizations that back the “Press Pause on Face Surveillance” campaign.
“In the Jewish tradition, we are taught to value privacy," said Cindy Rowe, Executive Director of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action. “Study after study has shown that unregulated use of facial surveillance technology contributes to racial bias in our criminal justice system and would be an unprecedented intrusion into the daily lives of everyday Americans.”
"Government use of face surveillance is entirely unregulated, posing risks to the civil rights and civil liberties of all of us here in Massachusetts,” said Georgia Katsoulomitis, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. “And it's hardly foolproof. It guesses wrong not infrequently — most often when trying to identify people of color, young people, and women. It's time to ‘press pause’ on this dangerous technology."
The ACLU of Massachusetts recently launched “Press Pause on Face Surveillance” 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. Face surveillance is entirely unregulated in Massachusetts and nationwide, but the technology is used frequently by government agencies like the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). The RMV makes its driver’s license database available to law enforcement agencies for face surveillance scans, implicating millions of ordinary people in a perpetual lineup without their knowledge or consent. This happens absent any legislative authorization or judicial oversight.
“Right now, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is using face surveillance technology in criminal investigations, but with virtually no legal safeguards to protect our civil rights,” said Kade Crockford, Director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Legal advocates are rightly outraged by this, and we’re thrilled to have them lend their voices to our campaign. Law reform experts and Massachusetts voters agree: We need to press pause on government use of face surveillance in the Commonwealth.”
These legal services and law reform organizations now join dozens of other community advocacy groups that support a statewide moratorium on government use of face surveillance technology. Leading gender justice advocates and business leaders announced their support for the campaign last month.
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.