Victory! Boston Bans Government Use of Face Surveillance

Electronic Frontier Foundation

The push to minimize the government’s power to track and spy on people with surveillance technology has picked up steam as the Black-led movement against racism and police brutality continues to push politicians to reconsider the role policing plays in our lives. Thanks to the tireless efforts of activists and organizations in Massachusetts and around the country, including EFF, this week Boston joins the ranks of cities that have banned government use of face surveillance. 

Boston will become the tenth city in the United States to ban government use of face recognition technology. Last year, the state of California passed a three-year moratorium on the use of FRT on police body-worn and hand-held cameras.

The Boston ordinance [PDF] declares: 

Whereas, Governments around the world are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with an unprecedented use of surveillance tools, including face surveillance technology, despite public health and privacy experts agreeing that public trust is essential to an effective response to the pandemic; and 

Whereas, Facial surveillance technology has been proven to be less accurate for African American and AAPI faces, and racial bias in facial surveillance has the potential to harm communities of color who are already facing increased level of surveillance and harassment; and

Whereas, Several municipalities in Massachusetts, including Springfield, Somerville, Brookline, and Cambridge, have passed local legislation to ban face surveillance…

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