Boston Celtics call on Massachusetts governor to regulate facial recognition

Boston Celtics call on Massachusetts governor to regulate facial recognition
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Boston Celtics players are calling on Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) to restore proposed regulation on facial recognition in a police reform bill.

“Baker’s rejection is deeply troubling because this technology supercharges racial profiling by police and has resulted in the wrongful arrests of innocent people,” the team wrote in a Boston Globe op-ed Wednesday.

Baker last week sent a police reform bill back to the state legislature, asking lawmakers to strike out a provision that would ban police and public authorities from using facial recognition technology.


The Republican governor told the Boston Globe that he’s “not going to sign something that is going to ban facial recognition.”

The bill would leave an exception to run facial recognition searches against the state’s license database with a warrant.

Baker has defended the technology, claiming it has been used to convict criminals including a child sex offender and double murder.

The legislation was drawn up amid refocused scrutiny on facial recognition driven by protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.

The technology has been criticized for replicating existing racist and sexist biases within society.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal agency within the Commerce Department, released an expansive study last year that found the majority of facial recognition systems have “demographic differentials” that can worsen their accuracy based on a person’s age, gender or race.


“This has real consequences,” the Celtics players wrote. “One false match can lead to an interrogation, arrest, and — especially for Black men — even a deadly police encounter.”

Several cities have banned or otherwise regulated facial recognition, but no states have done so yet. 

Federal efforts to regulate the technology have also stalled out.

The police reform bill in Massachusetts was not passed out of either state chamber with a veto-proof majority. The legislature could hand Baker back a version of the bill with the facial recognition ban still intact, testing his resolve to veto the reform.

“We can’t allow biased technology to supercharge racist policing in the Commonwealth,” the Celtics wrote. “The Legislature should return these important regulations to the governor and he should sign the bill.”