In the wake of mounting concerns about the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement, Massachusetts lawmakers are considering implementing restrictions on its use. Civil rights advocates have long criticized this technology, citing research that shows it disproportionately misidentifies people of color. Several cities in Massachusetts, including Boston and Springfield, have already banned its use at the local level.
On Tuesday, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing to discuss proposals that seek to limit 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 they 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.
The recommendations of the state’s Special Commission on Facial Recognition Technology were reflected in this proposal. While similar legislation was approved by the House last year, the state Senate didn’t act on it before the session ended. Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, emphasized the importance of enacting these recommendations into law. He noted that other states like Montana and Maine have already passed facial recognition laws, highlighting how critical it is for Massachusetts to follow suit.