Boston on Wednesday banned municipal use of facial recognition technology, becoming the largest East Coast city to do so, public radio station WBUR reports.
“Boston should not be using racially discriminatory technology and technology that threatens our basic rights,” said city council member Michelle Wu at a Wednesday hearing, CNET reports.
Facial recognition technology has fallen under heavy criticism, with numerous research reports finding the technology does relatively poorly at recognizing people who aren’t white men. IBM recently announced it would stop offering “general purpose” facial recognition software, and Microsoft and Amazon both announced moratoriums on offering such technology to police.
Boston joins neighboring municipalities Somerville, Cambridge, and Brookline in barring local agencies from using the technology. Other cities, including Oakland and San Francisco in California, already ban the technology as well.
The new ordinance drew praise from civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which in a tweet called attention to Robert Williams, a Black man living in Michigan who was arrested after being falsely matched by such software to someone captured in surveillance footage.
This is a crucial victory for our privacy rights, and individuals like Robert Williams, who have been arrested for crimes they didn’t commit because of a technology that law enforcement shouldn’t be using. https://t.co/33MVBCoBoW
— ACLU (@ACLU) June 24, 2020
City officials are still allowed to use facial recognition to unlock their own devices, and they can still use the technology to automatically spot faces to redact from photos, CNET reports.