SOMERVILLE – When the summer began, with it came the controversy over surveillance technology. An apartment building in Brooklyn, New York installed a special type of facial recognition technology in the surveillance cameras. Believing they were bolstering security by being able to identify every single person who entered and exited the apartment building, the decision was immediately met with pushback from those who felt that the software was a violation of privacy.
Regardless, the technology has continued to grow in popularity and has made waves in Massachusetts, notably in Cambridge last month, where it was met with similar resistance. Now, town officials in Somerville are pushing for a ban of the facial recognition technology altogether.
The burgeoning technology seemed to be well on its way to installment in Somerville before coming up against a staunch protest from those who believe that not only does the surveillance system violate privacy, but also that it is wildly inaccurate and not yet perfected. This week, the anti-surveillance campaign, which is led by a councilor from Somerville, Ben Ewen-Campen, to ban the software held an event for Somerville and Cambridge political leaders, including Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.
Pressley led with the following statement, "This technology is untested, biased and would only criminalize vulnerable communities and result in greater surveillance and racial profiling."
For the most part, it seems like many elected officials in the region support Pressley and Ewen-Campen in their efforts to stop the high-levels of surveillance before they even have the chance to be implemented. But the current problem is that the level of awareness is sorely lacking and this impediment for individual freedoms should be garnering much more attention. The event held on Tuesday was the next step in this process that is growing in support by the day.
In addition to Somerville, Brookline is also mulling over banning facial recognition software per a proposal from a member of the Town Meeting Board in Brookline, Amy Hummel.
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