Somerville: Second U.S city to ban facial recognition


Somerville, Massachusetts has become the second city in the US to ban the use of facial recognition technology. 

The “Face Surveillance Full Ban Ordinance” passed Thursday night by Somerville’s City Council, bans the use of facial recognition software in public spaces by any agency, department, bureau and/or subordinate division of the City of Somerville.

The ordinance wrote that use of facial surveillance in public spaces “is the functional equivalent of requiring every person to carry and display a personal photo identification card at all times”.

It also wrote how the technology has misidentified the faces of women, young people and people of colour, “and that such inaccuracies place certain persons at an elevated risk of harmful “false positive” identifications”. 

The ordinance requires Somerville to adopt the new definition of face surveillance being “an automated or semi-automated process that assists in identifying an individual, capturing information about an individual, based on the physical characteristics of an individual’s face.”

On the Somerville ordinance, Kade Crockford, ACLU director said:

“The city is sending a bold statement that it won’t sit by idly while the dystopian technology further outpaces our civil liberties protections and harms privacy, racial and gender justice, and freedom of speech.”

In May, San Francisco became the first U.S city to ban the use of facial recognition technology by local agencies. Thus it is clear that there is momentum within U.S cities in banning facial recognition technology instead of regulating them. 

Next month, Oakland, California could be the next city to enact a similar ban following a vote on an ordinance. 

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