Second US city blocks facial recognition

Somerville, Mass., on Thursday became the second U.S. city to ban its local government from using facial recognition technology.

The move marks a win for privacy and civil rights advocates in a battle over the controversial technology that is just starting to heat up.

Somerville follows San Francisco in banning local agencies and departments, including law enforcement, from using facial recognition software in public spaces.

All 11 members of the Somerville City Council approved the ordinance on Thursday night, and the city’s mayor signed it on Friday afternoon, making it official.

The ordinance bars the city of Somerville or any official from obtaining or accessing any face surveillance system or any information obtained from a face surveillance system.

Law enforcement will not be allowed to use data gathered by facial recognition technology as evidence in any proceeding, and city residents will be allowed to take action if officials violate the order.

“I have serious concerns about the use of facial recognition technology, and I commend the City Council for taking this important action to ban the acquisition or use of such technologies in our community,” Mayor Joseph Curtatone said in a statement to The Hill.

Curtatone raised concerns that the “unregulated” technology has been shown to result in “false identification,” meaning the software misidentifies people’s faces. And he noted Somerville is a “diverse community,” which raises concerns about the “frequency of the technology’s bias against minorities.”