A Second U.S. City Has Banned Facial Recognition
Somerville, Massachusetts just became the second U.S. city to ban the use of facial recognition in public space. The ‘Face Surveillance Full Ban Ordinance,’ which passed through Somerville’s City Council on Thursday night, forbids any “department, agency, bureau, and/or subordinate division of the City of Somerville” from using facial recognition software in public spaces. The ordinance passed Somerville’s Legislative Matters Committee on earlier this week.
The ordinance defines facial surveillance as “an automated or semi-automated process that assists in identifying an individual, capturing information about an individual, based on the physical characteristics of an individual’s face,” which is operationally equivalent to facial recognition. San Francisco banned the use of facial recognition by police and city government agencies a month ago, making it the first U.S. city to do so. The success of a similar ordinance from Somerville shows that there’s momentum in major U.S. cities behind the idea that we shouldn’t just regulate the use of facial recognition, but ban it entirely.
Kade Crockford, director of the technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, said in a phone call that at the state level, the ACLU is advocating for a moratorium or pause of facial recognition technology, while at the local level, the ACLU is advocating for bans.