Cambridge, Massachusetts, the home of MIT, has joined a number of other cities in moving to ban the government and police from using facial recognition technology on its citizens.
Gizmodo reports that the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has joined three other cities in the country in proposing a ban on local government utilizing facial recognition tools on citizens. In December of 2018, the Cambridge City Council passed the Surveillance Technology Ordinance which requires the approval of the council prior to the acquisition or deployment of surveillance technology, including any facial recognition software.
This week, the council passed a ban on facial recognition which will now be sent to the Public Safety Committee, Mayor Marc McGovern and Councillor Sumbul Siddiqui. According to McGovern’s office, it is “unclear” when the next steps to put the order into effect will take place and stated that Councillor Craig A. Kelley, a sponsor of the order, has to schedule a Public Safety Committee hearing for it to move further.
Once a hearing has been scheduled, the amendment will be heard by an ordinance committee before being brought to City Council for adoption. McGovern stated that there was no clear timeline for this but that it will be “done by the end of the year.” The amendment argues that given recent reports, tech can discriminate against women and minorities and argued that facial recognition technology violates an individual’s civil rights and liberties.
The amendment states: “The use of face recognition technology can have a chilling effect on the exercise of constitutionally protected free speech, with the technology being used in China to target ethnic minorities, and in the United States, it was used by police agencies in Baltimore, Maryland, to target activists in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death.”
If the order is passed, Cambridge will be joining San Francisco, Oakland, and Somerville in banning facial recognition surveillance tech. Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, told Gizmodo in an email: “We’re at a pivotal moment in human history. Invasive surveillance technology like facial recognition is spreading extremely quickly. It’s being marketed as ‘convenient’ and for ‘public safety,’ but it’s putting us on a path to a totalitarian police state. Backlash to the spread of face surveillance is growing. But if we don’t act now, it will soon become ubiquitous, and then it could be too late.”
Cambridge is the home of MIT, one of America’s centers of high tech research and development. For it to take a stand on the emerging technology of facial recognition is particularly noteworthy.
Last month, Breitbart News reported that after 15 months, a pilot test aiming to bring Amazon’s facial recognition system called Rekognition to the Orlando Police Department has ended. City police reportedly ended the test after multiple technical issues resulting in the technology failing to work correctly and a lack of resources on the police department’s part.