Police will no longer be able to search through databases of images without a court order or oversight in Massachusetts — at least not without a court order.
Conservatives view this as a win for civil liberties. Progressives, meanwhile, see it as a win against “racist” facial recognition software.
Massachusetts just became the latest state to restrict the use of facial restriction technology by law enforcement. Virginia passed a similar bill earlier this year, and Maine could be the next state in line.
Facial recognition technology has progressed to a point in which artificial intelligence programs are now able to match faces in photographs with actual individuals. The technology makes it possible to rapidly search through millions of images for matches. Law enforcement uses it to catch criminals which increasingly has sparked questions about privacy and civil liberties.
According to the ACLU of Massachusetts, police can run a state-wide facial recognition search by simply emailing a picture of a suspect to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.
The concerns over the ease of doing this, as well as the lack of oversight, prompted Massachusetts state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz to propose legislation that would require law enforcement to seek a court order before cross-referencing images with those in any available database.
While Conservatives worry about law enforcement infringing on social liberties, progressives fear the facial recognition technology is racist.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has stated that facial recognition technology was “designed mostly by and for white men” and that it could be used to identify immigrants.
Julia Brown of Maine’s Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project stated that the technology is “racially biased” and that it could lead to more deportations and “more unwarranted charges for Black people.”
Meanwhile, earlier this year, Amnesty International stated that the technology “amplifies racist policing” and “threatens the right to protest.”