Largest City on the East Coast to Ban Government Use of Face Recognition Technology

June 24, 2020

BOSTON — The Boston City Council today voted unanimously to pass a ban on city government use of face surveillance technology, becoming the second largest municipality in the world to do so. Boston now joins five other Massachusetts communities—Springfield, Cambridge, Northampton, Brookline, and Somerville—which passed bans over the past year. The vote comes after the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a complaint revealing that police wrongfully arrested Robert Williams, a Black man living in Michigan, in front of his wife and two little daughters because of a false face recognition match.

Below is comment from Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, in response to the Boston City Council vote:

"This is a crucial victory for our privacy rights and for people like Robert Williams, who have been arrested for crimes they did not commit because of a technology law enforcement shouldn't be using. Lawmakers nationwide should follow suit and immediately stop law enforcement use of this technology. This surveillance technology is dangerous when right, and dangerous when wrong."

The ACLU has also been leading nationwide efforts to defend privacy rights and civil liberties against the growing threat of face recognition surveillance, and is calling on Congress to immediately stop the use and funding of the technology. Already, multiple localities have banned law enforcement use of face recognition technology as part of ACLU-led campaigns, including San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, CA, as well as Cambridge, Springfield, and Somerville, MA.

Additional information about Robert Williams is here: https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/man-wrongfully-arrested-because-face-recognition-cant-tell-black-people-apart.

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