Massachusetts City Renews Calls for Facial Recognition Ban

The police in Springfield, Mass., don’t use facial recognition software and city councilors want to keep the technology away until it gets better and someone does a better job of regulating its use.

by Jim Kinney, MassLive.com / January 13, 2020
U.S. Customs and Border Protection plans to use facial recognition for more than 97 percent of commercial air travelers by 2022. Flickr/US Customs/Donna Burton

(TNS) — Springfield, Mass., police don’t use facial recognition software and city councilors want to keep the technology away until it gets better and someone does a better job of regulating its use.

"We want to make sure that we as a municipality are not employing technology that has proven time after time to be inaccurate and inefficient," said Councilor Orlando Ramos Friday. "The second reason protect the general public unnecessary surveillance."

Ramos and Councilor Adam Gomez will reintroduce Monday night legislation to ban the use of facial surveillance technology in Springfield. The measure died in committee last year.

Ramos said he hopes to take a final vote in February.

If it passes, Springfield would join neighboring community Northampton and Somerville, Brookline in Massachusetts as well as Oakland and San Francisco, California, which have already banned the technology.

Ramos cites an American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts study released earlier Monday that used photos of Boston Red Sox and Celtics players to demonstrate limitations of Amazon Rekognition software. The ACLU fed photos of 188 New England athletes into the system and it misidentified 28, matching them to mugshots in the arrest photo database.

The technology is apparently especially poor at differentiating among individuals with ethnic facial features.

Ramos said the study is convincing evidence that the technology is not mature enough to be deployed by police and that it has potential to cast suspicion on innocent men and women.

©2020 MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Platforms & Programs