Before 2020 ends, Massachusetts could become the first state to implement robust state-wide protections from government use of face recognition. As part of a sweeping package of police reform legislation (S. 2963) inspired by protests for police accountability, state legislators in the commonwealth passed a prohibition on government agencies using the technology. Disappointingly, Governor Baker returned the omnibus bill to the legislature with this section entirely stricken.
Government use of face surveillance threatens privacy, chills free expression, and amplifies historical biases in our criminal justice system. A study conducted for the ACLU of Massachusetts revealed that 79% of Massachusetts voters support a moratorium on government use of face surveillance.
Before being struck from S. 2963 by Governor Baker, Section 26 offered protections to prevent police from using face recognition to track residents as they attend school, visit health providers, and otherwise go about their lives.
EFF supports Section 26 of S. 2963, which would end as we know it government use of face surveillance in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Face surveillance is a menace to privacy, free speech, and racial justice. We urge Massachusetts residents to tell your senators and representatives to override Governor Baker's decision to remove Section 26.