Another major city in the United States, Boston, has banned the use of facial recognition technology for surveillance purposes, stating that not only does this tech trample ‘on everyone’s rights to anonymity and privacy,’ but it also enforces systemic racism and makes it easier for communities to target minorities. Boston joins five other regions in Massachusetts that have also banned their respective governments from using these systems.
Facial recognition technology remains very controversial, with critics citing an erosion of privacy and the massive potential for abuse, among other things. Concerns have been raised over a number of potential issues, including the fact that many facial surveillance algorithms are racist.
Late last year, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology evaluated many facial recognition algorithms and found that most have higher false-positive rates when presented with African-America, Native American, and Asian faces compared to Caucasian faces. This is particularly concerning in light of police use of the technology to identify suspects.
Boston officials cite this issue as one of the multiple reasons it has banned its city government from using the technology, with City Councilor Michelle Wu stating:
Boston should not use racially discriminatory technology that threatens the privacy and basic rights of our residents. This ordinance codifies our values that community trust is the foundation for public safety and public health. I’m proud of the Boston City Council for leading the way alongside community advocates to pass policies ensuring transparent, accountable, community oversight of surveillance.