Cambridge Votes To Ban Face Surveillance Technology


Brookline Votes To Ban Face Surveillance Technology

The Cambridge City Council voted to ban government use of face surveillance technology during a city council meeting Monday.

In a unanimous 9-0 vote, councilors joined three other municipalities in Massachusetts — Northampton, Brookline, and Somerville — which passed bans earlier this year.

Supporters argue the technology could be used for public safety and security, but opponents cite studies that show racial bias and a high error rate, arguing that the technology is not yet developed enough to be implemented by state and city police.

City Councilor Marc McGovern said Cambridge needs to hold off until surveillance can be proven to be safe.

“I have tremendous faith in our police commissioner and our police department,” McGovern said during the meeting. “But we have seen how facial recognition has been misused by governments around not just in the United States, but around the world.”

McGovern cited the Chinese government’s use of the face surveillance in Hong Kong to target protesters, and cases in Baltimore where officials used a network of facial recognition information to incarcerate protesters, and Florida, where authorities shared information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI via pictures on driver’s licenses.

“We know that this technology can and is sometimes used inappropriately,” McGovern said. “This ban really is a protection for the people of Cambridge, whether they’re from outside of Cambridge coming here for a protest or an event or other people who live here to make sure that the technology isn’t being used in our city in an inappropriate way.”

Legislation to place a moratorium on face surveillance across the state currently sits before the Joint Judiciary Committee.



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