The City of Cambridge tonight voted to pass a ban on the municipal use of face surveillance technology. Cambridge now joins three other municipalities in Massachusetts—Northampton, Brookline, and Somerville—which passed bans earlier this year.
Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, released the following statement in response:
“Privacy laws have not kept pace with advancements of digital technology. But Massachusetts cities and towns are stepping up to ensure that face surveillance technology doesn’t get out ahead of our basic rights. We are particularly grateful for Cambridge’s leadership on this issue, as a technology hub home to many tech workers and companies. Now, Beacon Hill must also lead the nation by passing a statewide moratorium on this technology until there are civil liberties protections in place.”
In June, the ACLU of Massachusetts launched the “Press Pause on Face Surveillance” campaign 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.
A recent poll shows nearly 8 in 10 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 prohibitions on government use.