Boston has banned the use of facial surveillance technology in the city, becoming the second-largest community in the world to do so. The city council unanimously voted on Wednesday to ban the use of the technology and prohibit any city official from obtaining facial surveillance by asking for it through third parties. The measure will now go to Mayor Marty Walsh with a veto-proof majority. Walsh's office said he would review the ban. That move comes even as city officials say the technology isn't yet used by the Boston Police Department -- though the department could access those powers with a software upgrade.
Boston City Councilors voted unanimously to ban the use of facial-recognition technology by police -- technology the Boston Police Department currently doesn't use anyway due to its unreliability. All 13 councilors voted in favor of the order authored by Councilors Ricardo Arroyo and Michelle Wu to ban the city from using technology that matches people's faces. Mayor Marty Walsh's office said the mayor would review the legislation, not committing to whether he'd sign it or not. "It puts Bostonians at risk for misidentification," Arroyo said. A recent MIT study found that the technology was wrong more often when trying to identify darker-skinned people.
Boston on Wednesday joined the still small, but growing, number of U.S. cities that have for the most part banned city officials' use of facial-recognition technology. The ordinance, sponsored by Councilor Michelle Wu and Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, passed by a unanimous vote according to Councilor Wu. The new measure prohibits both the city of Boston and any official in the city of Boston from using "face surveillance" and "information derived from a face surveillance system." There are, importantly, a few key exceptions. One such exception, allowing city employees to still use technology like Face ID to unlock their personal smartphones, is uncontroversial.
Boston will become the second largest city in the US to ban facial recognition software for government use after a unanimous city council vote. Following San Francisco, which banned facial recognition in 2019, Boston will bar city officials from using facial recognition systems. The ordinance will also bar them from working with any third party companies or organizations to acquire information gathered through facial recognition software. The ordinance was co-sponsored by Councilors Ricardo Arroyo and Michelle Wu, who were especially concerned about the potential for racial bias in the technology, according to a report from WBUR. 'Boston should not be using racially discriminatory technology and technology that threatens our basic rights,' Wu said at a hearing before the vote.
Boston has become the second-largest city in the US to bar police and other local agencies from using facial recognition software (via WBUR). The city's 13-member council voted unanimously to ban the technology outside of use in specific criminal cases. The bill also prevents any city official from obtaining the technology through a third-party. The bill was put forward in part to protect the city's minority residents. "Boston should not use racially discriminatory technology that threatens the privacy and basic rights of our residents," said councilor Michelle Wu, who co-sponsored the bill alongside councilor Ricardo Arroyo.