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Worcester bans city use of facial recognition technology

December 15, 2021 GMT

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — Worcester has become the latest local community in Massachusetts to have banned the use of facial recognition technology by its city government.

The Worcester City Council voted Tuesday night to prohibit city departments from acquiring or using the technology.

Critics say facial recognition systems have the potential to violate personal privacy and are more likely to err when identifying people with darker skin.

“Facial recognition technology is found to misidentify suspects and does so disproportionately,” said City Councilor Krystian King said in a statement reported by The Telegram & Gazette. “Black women are often mislabeled as men and Black men are often misidentified as being a threat risk.”

A growing number of cities and towns across the country are considering similar restrictions. In Massachusetts, Boston, Somerville and Springfield are among the cities that have already banned the technology.

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Several states are also looking at bans.

The American Civil Liberties Union-Massachusetts has pushed for statewide legislation to regulate how local governments may use the technology. The group hailed Worcester’s decision in a statement that noted more than 1.5 million residents in Massachusetts are now protected by a municipal facial recognition ban.