The Massachusetts Senate is currently considering the implementation of restrictions on facial recognition technology by law enforcement. This technology has been widely criticized by civil rights advocates, who argue that it disproportionately misidentifies people of color. Several cities in Massachusetts, including Boston and Springfield, have already banned the use of facial recognition technology at the local level.
In response to these concerns, a bill has been introduced by State Sen. Cynthia Creem to limit law enforcement’s use of this technology. The proposed bill would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before using facial recognition on an unidentified suspect and would require them to inform criminal defendants if they were identified through the software. However, there are exceptions for emergency situations, and the bill seeks to centralize the use of facial recognition technology within a special State Police unit.
The Special Commission on Facial Recognition Technology established under Massachusetts’ 2020 police reform law made these recommendations based on research that shows facial recognition technology’s potential to facilitate government surveillance and its history of inaccurately identifying individuals in criminal investigations. While similar legislation was passed last year by the House, it did not receive action from the Senate before session ended. Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty program at ACLU of Massachusetts, emphasized the importance of passing these recommendations into law as other states like Montana and Maine have already done so.