Boston To Ban Face Surveillance Technology

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Members of the Boston City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to ban the use of face surveillance technology by the city government.

That makes Boston the second largest city in the world, and the largest city on the East coast, to enact such a restriction.

Boston will join Springfield, Cambridge, Northampton, Brookline, and Somerville, all of which have barred the use of facial recognition technology over the past year.

“While face surveillance is a danger to all people, no matter the color of their skin, the technology is a particularly serious threat to Black and brown people," Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo said after the vote. "Especially now, as communities are demanding real change from their elected officials, we need to proactively ensure that we do not invest in technology that studies show is ineffective and furthers systemic racism."

The issue of facial recognition technology in Massachusetts was brought to light last summer with the launch of the ACLU of Massachusetts' awareness campaign “Press Pause on Face Surveillance.”

The organization said the campaign was designed to "[raise] awareness about the civil liberties concerns posed by face surveillance and the need to bring government use of the technology under democratic control."

A bill currently before legislators on Beacon Hill, which is backed by the ACLU, would establish a statewide moratorium on government use of face surveillance and other remote biometric screening technologies, until the legislature imposes checks and balances to protect the public’s interest.

Meanwhile, the ACLU said, Massachusetts municipalities like Boston, Springfield, and Cambridge are taking action to bring this technology "under democratic control by introducing and enacting municipal prohibitions on government use."

“Boston should not use racially discriminatory technology that threatens the privacy and basic rights of our residents," said Boston City Councilor At-Large, Michelle Wu. "This ordinance codifies our values that community trust is the foundation for public safety and public health. I’m proud of the Boston City Council for leading the way alongside community advocates to pass policies ensuring transparent, accountable, community oversight of surveillance.”

The City of Easthampton is also set to vote on a face surveillance ban July 1.

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(Photo: Getty Images)

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