As the concerns over facial recognition technology and privacy grow, the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts is also taking steps towards prohibiting its use within the city.
This is not something new by any means: the Cambridge City Council passed the Surveillance Technology Ordinance in December of 2018. The Ordinance requires that the council gives it approval before the city acquires any type of surveillance tech, facial recognition included.
Now that the other passed by the council, it’s up to the Public Safety Committee to look over it and push it forward, though, at this time, it’s somewhat unclear what the next steps will be – most likely, it will be sent to the City Council for full adoption once it passes a hearing by an ordinance committee.
“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,” the amendment says.
Cambridge would not be the first city to ban the technology: San Francisco, Oakland and Somerville have also done it or are in the process of doing so.
The amendment is backed up by Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern and two other city council members who stated that the technology has shown time and time again that it discriminates against women and people of color and violates the people’s civil rights and liberties.
They are not the only ones who want to keep the technology in check: a digital rights group called Fight for the Future is also making efforts in that direction. The group is also trying to make the American citizens aware of the faults of the technology and urges them to contact their state, local and federal lawmakers about it via a form tool on their website called Ban Facial Recognition.
The advocacy group wants to see the technology not regulated, but completely banned and that such a complete ban would stop government agencies from joining forced with companies “that enable law enforcement to access facial recognition information collected by private entities.”
“We’re at a pivotal moment in human history,” Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future had told Gizmodo. “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.”