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Cambridge Weighs Ban On Facial Recognition Tech

In this July 10, 2018 photo, a camera with facial recognition capabilities hangs from a wall while being installed at Lockport High School in Lockport, N.Y. The school district is adding technology that can be programed to look for expelled students, sex offenders or weapons and alert officials. (Carolyn Thompson/AP)
In this July 10, 2018 photo, a camera with facial recognition capabilities hangs from a wall while being installed at Lockport High School in Lockport, N.Y. The school district is adding technology that can be programed to look for expelled students, sex offenders or weapons and alert officials. (Carolyn Thompson/AP)

Despite it being a tech hub and home to Harvard and MIT, Cambridge is considering banning the use of facial recognition technology by city departments.

Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern and two other city councilors proposed an ordinance Tuesday banning the computer programs, which identify and track people by analyzing videos and photos. Critics say the surveillance and investigative tools invade privacy and are prone to error.

McGovern's proposal would amend an ordinance passed last December requiring the city manager obtain council approval before using biometric or facial recognition technology.

Three cities have already banned the use of facial recognition technology by municipal agencies: San Francisco, Oakland and Somerville, Massachusetts, which is next to Cambridge.

Bills pending in the state Legislature would also ban use of the technology by governments or establish a moratorium until regulations are developed.

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