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Tighter regulations could help protect civil liberties
The Special Commission to Evaluate Government Use of Facial Recognition Technology in the Commonwealth released a report on March 22, recommending the Massachusetts Legislature adopt new reforms on face surveillance. According to a media release from the American Civil Liberties Union, “The recommendations include strengthening existing law to centralize all police use of the technology, require a warrant for police facial recognition searches, limit searches to felony investigations, prohibit the use of facial recognition technology for surveillance and emotion analysis, and institute due process protections.”
Kade Crockford, Technology for Liberty Program Director at the ACLU of Massachusetts, commented on the recommended reforms:
“After more than a year of study and deliberation, the Commission has concluded Massachusetts needs tighter regulation on face surveillance technology in order to protect Bay Staters’ civil liberties and community safety. The ACLU of Massachusetts is proud to support these recommendations, which balance law enforcement interests and civil rights. It is critical to get this balance right because face surveillance technology poses profound and unprecedented threats to our privacy and other basic freedoms—and is particularly dangerous for communities of color and other marginalized groups. We thank Commission co-chairs Representative Michael Day and Senator Jamie Eldridge for their leadership. It was an honor to participate in such a thorough, thoughtful, open, and well-run public examination of these critical issues. We also thank Representatives David Rogers and Orlando Ramos and Senator Cindy Creem for their steadfast commitment to improving existing statewide policy. These recommendations provide a balanced framework for strong legislation; we look forward to continued collaboration with the legislature to pass comprehensive legislation to regulate government use of this invasive technology.”
In 2019, the ACLU of Massachusetts launched “Press Pause on Face Surveillance,” a campaign that built awareness about civil liberties concerns created by face surveillance and the importance of bringing government use of technology under democratic control. According to a release, “The campaign has so far led to eight municipal bans on face surveillance, and limited statewide regulation of police use of the technology.”
Shira Laucharoen is a reporter based in Boston. She currently serves as the assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. In the past she has written for Sampan newspaper, The Somerville Times, Scout Magazine, Boston Magazine, and WBUR.