Lawmakers in Boston have outlawed the use of facial recognition software by city officials.
In a unanimous vote on Wednesday, Boston’s City Council passed the ordinance, which will make it illegal for officials in the Massachusetts capital to “obtain, retain, possess, access, or use” facial recognition software.
“We’re working to end systemic racism,” City Councilwoman Michelle Wu said. “So ending the … over-surveillance of communities of color needs to be a part of that, and we’re just truly standing with the values that public safety and public health must be grounded in trust.”
The bill will be sent to Mayor Marty Walsh, who is expected to make Boston the sixth state in Massachusetts to adopt such legislation. City Councilman Ricardo Arroyo argued that facial recognition software is biased against people of color.
“It has an obvious racial bias, and that’s dangerous,” Arroyo said ahead of the hearing. “But it also has sort of a chilling effect on civil liberties. And so, in a time where we’re seeing so much direct action in the form of marches and protests for rights, any kind of surveillance technology that could be used to essentially chill free speech or … more or less monitor activism or activists is dangerous.”
Boston officials confirmed that the Boston Police Department does not have access to such technology. The new legislation would make Boston the second-largest city in the United States to ban facial recognition software.
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