Massachusetts lawmakers are currently considering implementing restrictions on the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement. Civil rights advocates have long criticized this technology, citing research that shows it disproportionately misidentifies people of color. In response to these concerns, 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 aimed at limiting 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 would have to 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 passed by the House last year, it was not acted upon by the state Senate before the session ended. Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, emphasized