*On Tuesday, Massachusetts’ state House and Senate voted in favor of a police reform bill that would ban police use of facial recognition software, a technology that has been proven to provide results that are biased against people with dark skin.
The bill was introduced following the killing of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests across the US. It now needs to be signed by Massachusetts governor, Charlie Baker, to become a state law.
A recent study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology found when using facial recognition technology there are higher rates of false positives for Asian and African Americans than for Caucasians, ranging from factors of 10 to 100. NIST reported higher rates of false positives for black women more specifically.
MIT researcher Joy Buolamwini, the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League at the university, found similar results in her work. Buolamwini, who also testified in favor of the moratorium, ran more than 1,200 faces through recognition programs offered by Face++, IBM and Microsoft and found the technologies frequently misidentified women of color.
Watch a video about her findings below:
The Massachusetts bill would almost entirely ban the use of biometrical surveillance by law enforcement and public agencies in Massachusetts … with one exception: police will still be able to run facial recognition searches against the state’s driver’s license database. This will only be possible with a warrant, however.
Law enforcement will also be obliged to publish transparency reports every year, with data on how many such warrants had been issued. The bill also outlaws chokeholds and rubber bullets, while placing restrictions on tear gas and other crowd-control means.