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Massachusetts lawmakers propose restrictions on facial recognition technology

Massachusetts lawmakers propose restrictions on facial recognition technology

Massachusetts lawmakers have proposed to restrict the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement, according to WBUR.

On Tuesday, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary heard arguments on the proposals. “Facial recognition technology is dangerous, both in its ability to facilitate government surveillance, and its track record of misidentifying people in criminal investigations,” State Senator Cynthia Creem said to the panel.

Creem is sponsoring a bill that would require the police to get a warrant to use face biometrics to identify a suspect and inform defendants they were identified through the software. “I think that’s called protecting one’s civil rights,” she said.

The bill has exemptions for emergency circumstances that involve imminent danger and for identifying the deceased. It also centralizes the use of facial recognition with state police, rather than local law enforcement.

The proposal is based on recommendations from the state’s Special Commission on Facial Recognition Technology, which was established as part of Massachusetts’ 2020 police reform law. The commission included stakeholders like the state police, as well as civil rights groups like NAACP and ACLU, among others. The ACLU has also spotlighted what it argues is a lack of government oversight of police facial recognition use in the state.

“When the Legislature creates a commission to do the hard work of studying an issue, and that commission puts forth reasoned recommendations, it should be incumbent upon the Legislature to advance them,” said Johnathan Cohn, policy director at Progressive Massachusetts, to the panel.

Several Massachusetts cities, including Boston and Springfield, have already enacted local bans on the use of facial recognition. Other states like Montana and cities like Portland, Maine have also passed laws restricting the use of facial recognition.

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