In light of the growing concerns about facial recognition technology and its potential to disproportionately misidentify people of color, Massachusetts lawmakers are currently examining the possibility of implementing restrictions on its use by law enforcement. Several cities in Massachusetts, including Boston and Springfield, have already banned the use of facial recognition technology at the local level.
On Tuesday, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing to discuss proposals that seek to limit law enforcement’s use of this technology. State Sen. Cynthia Creem, who is sponsoring a bill related to this issue, addressed concerns about the technology’s potential to facilitate government surveillance and its history of inaccurately identifying individuals in criminal investigations. The proposed bill would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before using facial recognition on an unidentified suspect and inform criminal defendants if they were identified through the software. The bill also includes exceptions for emergency situations and seeks to centralize the use of facial recognition technology within a special State Police unit.
This proposal reflects the recommendations of the state’s Special Commission on Facial Recognition Technology, which was established as part of Massachusetts’ 2020 police reform law. While similar legislation was approved by the House last year, the state Senate didn’t act on it before the session ended. Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty program at ACLU of Massachusetts, emphasized that enacting these recommendations into law is crucial given that other states like Montana and Maine have already passed facial recognition laws.