Cabridge, Mass. bans facial recognition tech

facial recognition

The city of Cambridge, Massachusetts is one of the latest municipalities to ban face recognition technologies in its local jurisdiction.

The Boston Herald reports today that the Cambridge city council board voted not to allow use of the technology in surveillance setups around the city.

In describing the reasons for the board’s reticence, city counselor Mark McGovern mangled the English language a bit, saying that “this technology can and is sometimes used inappropriately,” but his intentions, according to consumer privacy rights advocates, were good – the ACLU and others have pushed back on what state police are calling an “important tool for law enforcement.”

Why ban facial recognition?

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

In reporting on the recent move, Boston Herald shows that similar legislation is also pending at the state level. Nor is Massachusetts the only state to consider or even adopt such rules. As you might imagine, California, as the top U.S. state economy and population center, has already put a ban in place. As reported by Security Today, in October, California became the third state to ban facial recognition on police body cameras.

Nor is Cambridge the only city with this kind of appetite for restricting the new “tool.”

“Privacy groups and officials that spoke to The Daily Beast often referenced the ‘mission creep’ of facial recognition tech,” wrote Blake Montgomery at the Daily Beast this past July, which shows how, despite a slow start, people are getting on board with a ban for various reasons involving the rights of individual citizens. “Its opponents say facial recognition poses an existential threat to digital privacy.”

The wave of pushback against the widespread use of new facial recognition technologies is an important response to the warnings of top innovators: that artificial intelligence without ethics can run rampant in our societies. Look for more on how local and state governments treat this issue as it develops.