A bill by the democratically controlled legislature banned almost all government use of facial recognition technology, with the exception of the Motor Vehicle Register, which uses it to prevent identity theft. The department could only search for police officers with a search warrant. (An arrest warrant is required under a Washington State Law this will also come into force in July.)
Massachusetts Republican governor Charlie Baker threatened to veto the measure.
“I’m not going to sign any bill banning facial recognition,” Baker said a local reportciting its use in solving two cases of murder and child sexual abuse.
While this was just a small part of a larger law reforming law, the guidelines on facial recognition caught attention. NBA player Jaylen Brown and his Celtics teammates have submitted an opinion article to the Boston Globe, which decodes the racial prejudice of technology and supports regulation.
“Despite our positions and profiles as professional athletes, we are not immune to racial profiles and discriminatory policing,” they wrote. “Studies confirm that it is a face recognition monitoring technology flawed and biasedwith significantly higher error rates when used against colored and female people. “
“We cannot allow biased technology to accelerate racist policing in the Commonwealth,” they added.
Eventually the legislature and the governor reached a compromise in the form of the pending regulations.
Some critics, including other ACLU bureaus, say that facial recognition is uniquely harmful and must be banned. The police unions and the Boston Police Department did not respond to requests for comment. Ryan Walsh, a public information officer for the Springfield, Massachusetts Police Department said the department does not see this action as the final word on how law enforcement agencies can use the technology.
“While we don’t currently use or plan to use facial recognition software, we hope the law will evolve as technology advances and improves,” he said.