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2019 MA S 1385
Author: Creem
Version: Introduced
Version Date: 01/22/2019

SENATE No. 1385

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

In the One Hundred and Ninety-First General Court

(2019-2020)

AN ACT establishing a moratorium on face recognition and other remote biometric surveillance systems.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

WHEREAS, the Massachusetts General Court finds that government use of face recognition poses unique and significant civil rights and civil liberties threats to the residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

WHEREAS, the Massachusetts General Court finds that face recognition technology has a history of being far less accurate in identifying the faces of women, young people, and dark skinned people, and that such inaccuracies lead to harmful “false positive” identifications.

WHEREAS, the Massachusetts General Court finds that many of the databases to which face recognition technology is applied are plagued by racial disparities and other biases, which generate copycat biases in face recognition data.

WHEREAS, the Massachusetts General Court finds that the broad application of face recognition in public spaces is the functional equivalent of requiring every person to carry and display a personal photo identification card at all times, which constitutes an unacceptable mass violation of privacy.

WHEREAS, the Massachusetts General Court is likewise concerned about the deployment of other biometric surveillance systems, including gait and voice recognition, which raise similar concerns as face recognition.

WHEREAS, the Massachusetts General Court finds that the public use of biometric surveillance systems can chill the exercise of constitutionally protected free speech and association.

WHEREAS, the Massachusetts General Court finds that the benefits of using biometric surveillance systems, which are few and speculative, are greatly outweighed by their harms, which are substantial.

THEREFORE, be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

SECTION 1. Chapter 4 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting at the end of section 13, as appearing in the 2016 Official Edition, the following:-

Section 14.

(a) Definitions. As used in this section, the following words shall have the following meanings:

“Face recognition”, an automated or semi-automated process that assists in identifying an individual or capturing information about an individual based on the physical characteristics of an individual’s face, or that logs characteristics of an individual’s face, head, or body to infer emotion, associations, activities, or the location of an individual.

“Other remote biometric recognition”, an automated or semi-automated process that assists in identifying an individual or capturing information about an individual based on the characteristics of an individual’s gait, voice, or other immutable characteristic ascertained from a distance, or that logs such characteristics to infer emotion, associations, activities, or the location of an individual; provided, however, that other remote biometric recognition shall not include recognition based on DNA, fingerprints, or palm prints.

“Biometric surveillance system,” any computer software that performs face recognition or other remote biometric recognition.

“Commonwealth of Massachusetts”, any agency, executive office, department, board, commission, bureau, division or authority of the commonwealth, or of any political subdivision thereof, or of any authority established by the general court to serve a public purpose.

“Massachusetts government official”, any officer, employee, agent, contractor, or subcontractor of any agency, executive office, department, board, commission, bureau, division or authority of the commonwealth, or of any political subdivision thereof, or of any authority established by the general court to serve a public purpose.

(b) Moratorium on government use of biometric surveillance.

Absent express statutory authorization, it shall be unlawful for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or any Massachusetts government official to acquire, possess, access, or use any biometric surveillance system, or acquire, possess, access, or use information derived from a biometric surveillance system operated by another entity.

Statutory authorization for government use of a biometric surveillance system shall describe with particularity:

(i) the entities permitted to use the biometric surveillance system, the purposes for such use, and prohibited uses;

(ii) standards for use and management of information derived from the biometric surveillance system, including but not limited to data retention, sharing, access, and audit trails;

(iii) auditing requirements to ensure the accuracy of biometric surveillance system technologies, standards for minimum accuracy rates, and accuracy rates by gender, skin color, and age;

(iv) rigorous protections for due process, privacy, free speech and association, and racial, gender, and religious equity; and

(v) mechanisms to ensure compliance.

(c) Until such time as the General Court enacts an authorizing statute in accordance with subsection (b), the following provisions shall be in force:

(i) Admissibility. Except in a judicial proceeding alleging a violation of this section, no information obtained in violation of this section shall be admissible by the government in any criminal, civil, administrative or other proceeding.

(ii) Cause of Action. Any violation of this Act constitutes an injury and any person may institute proceedings against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for injunctive relief, declaratory relief, or writ of mandamus in any court of competent jurisdiction to enforce this Act, and shall be entitled to recover actual damages and additional damages of an amount equal to $100 for each violation, or $1,000, whichever is greater. A court shall award costs and reasonable attorneys' fees to a plaintiff who is the prevailing party in an action brought under this section.

(iii) Training. Violations of this Act by any Massachusetts government official shall result in consequences that may include retraining, suspension, or termination, subject to due process requirements.


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