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Massachusetts partially bans police facial recognition use in latest reform bill

Exception allows law enforcement to still run face biometric checks with a warrant
Massachusetts partially bans police facial recognition use in latest reform bill
 

Massachusetts state lawmakers have passed a new statewide police reform bill banning facial recognition technology for police departments and public agencies, according to TechCrunch. Both the state’s House and Senate voted to approve the bill on Tuesday, ending months of political deadlock.

While the bill curtails what critics have called biased and disproportionate misidentification of people and communities of color, police may still conduct facial recognition searches against the Massachusetts driver license database using a warrant. Alongside that exception, the state will have to issue annual transparency data on the number of biometric queries conducted.

Massachusetts ACLU Liberty program head Kade Crockford said: “No one should have to fear the government tracking and identifying their face wherever they go, or facing wrongful arrest because of biased, error-prone technology…We commend the legislature for advancing a bill to protect all Massachusetts residents from unregulated face surveillance technology.”

The policing bill, brought to the state legislature after of the killing of George Floyd, is the latest push by state and local governments to address privacy and civil rights concerns by passing bans on biometric technology.

The House vote passed 92-67, while the Senate vote was 28-12. The bill will now be sent to Governor Charlie Baker to be signed.

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