Massachusetts is one of the first states to create rules around facial recognition in criminal investigations.


A police reform bill in Massachusetts has managed to strike a balance on regulating facial recognition, allowing law enforcement to harness the benefits of the tool while building in protections that might prevent the false arrests that have happened before, Kashmir Hill reports for The New York Times.

The bill, which goes into effect in July, creates new guardrails: Police first must get a judge’s permission before running a face recognition search, and then have someone from the state police, the F.B.I. or the Registry of Motor Vehicles perform the search. A local officer can’t just download a facial recognition app and do a search.

The law also creates a commission to study facial recognition policies and make recommendations, such as whether a criminal defendant should be told that they were identified using the technology.

Lawmakers, civil liberties advocates and police chiefs have debated whether and how to use the technology because of concerns about both privacy and accuracy. But figuring out how to regulate it is tricky. So far, that has generally meant an all-or-nothing approach.

City councils in Oakland, Calif., Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Minneapolis and elsewhere have banned police use of the technology, largely because of bias in how it works. Studies in recent years by MIT researchers and the federal government found that many facial recognition algorithms are most accurate for white men, but less so for everyone else.



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