Boston has joined the growing ranks of US cities that have banned the use of facial recognition by government officials.
Facial recognition has become one of the most controversial technologies in use. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, organizations have been reevaluating their stand on facial recognition. Companies like Microsoft, IBM and Amazon have changed their policies to exclude selling their facial recognition tech to police.
Much of this is because of the issues with bias that are prevalent in facial recognition. Despite their best efforts, companies have struggled to keep bias from creeping in on the basis of race, ethnicity and sex.
These concerns have led cities to take action, banning facial recognition for government agencies. Oakland and San Francisco, California, as well as Cambridge, Massachusetts have already instituted such bans.
According to Boston.com, “in a unanimous vote Wednesday afternoon, the 13-member body passed an ordinance prohibiting the use of facial recognition technology by Boston police and other city departments, amid evidence that the existing systems misidentify people of color at an exorbitantly high rate.”
There are some exceptions. Police will still be able to obtain evidence from facial recognition technology, as long as that evidence was gathered by another agency investigating a “specific crime,” and was not at the behest of a Boston city official. Similarly, city officials will not be allowed to use facial recognition provided by third parties.
Given the current political climate, it’s a safe bet Boston won’t be the last city to take such measures.