A year ago, the ACLU of Massachusetts launched its campaign Press Pause On Face Surveillance. Last month, Boston approved a ban on facial recognition technology by police and other city departments, and the Massachusetts Senate has endorsed a moratorium on the public use of the technology.
ACLU of Massachusetts Executive Director Carol Rose told Boston Public Radio on Tuesday the organization is calling for a moratorium on facial recognition software that effectively tracks people's movements in real time.
"The notion you could be tracked wherever you go at all times, whether you're going to a rally, or to your therapist, or to a doctor," through the use of facial recognition technology, said Rose, has obvious civil liberties implications.
Civil liberties groups and activists have come out against the use of facial recognition software in policing due to its level of inaccuracies. A study published last year by the federal agency the National Institute of Standards and Technology found that the majority of commercial systems exhibit racial and gender bias.
Rose said the technology "perpetuates racist policing" and called for municipalities to ban its use.
In June, Boston became the second-largest city in the nation to adopt a ban on public uses of the technology, behind San Francisco. A handful of Massachusetts municipalities — including Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, Northampton and Springfield — have passed similar ordinances as part of the ACLU campaign. On Monday, the state Senate unveiled a police reform plan that would include a statewide moratorium on government use of facial recognition technology.
In addition to issues around biased policing, Rose said the police's relationship with new technologies also highlights questions of transparency in law enforcement.
In one case, the ACLU unveiled through a public records request that a facial recognition company tried to strike a dealwith the Plymouth police department that would enable law enforcement to use their system for free in exchange for access to the Registry of Motor Vehicles database.
During her segment on BPR, Rose also discussed the latest Supreme Court decisions.