The ACLU of Massachusetts made two public records requests to the state Department of Transportation, seeking information about how the agency uses facial recognition technology. After the state failed to respond both times, the ACLU filed a lawsuit. 

The suit seeks details about how the state uses and shares its driver's license database for "face surveillance" purposes. 

"When you go to get a driver's license, no one tells you that you're also entering your face into a surveillance dragnet," said ACLU Director Carol Rose in announcing the lawsuit. The technology "gives the government unprecedented power to track who we are, where we go, what we do and who we know." 

The ACLU wants the state to make sure the government's use of this technology "doesn't get out ahead of our basic rights."

With news that ICE and the FBI have routinely tapped into the RMV databases of certain states to troll for information about immigrants, this lawsuit is especially timely. The Legislature has broached the issue of surveillance – whether data from law enforcement license plate scanning systems can be saved or must be deleted in a specific time frame, for example – but the rapid spread of facial recognition and biometric technology surveillance must be addressed at every level of government.

Sen. Cynthia Creem and Rep. David Rogers sponsored legislation that's pending in the Statehouse that would place a temporary hold on the government’s use of facial recognition while regulations are established.

This legislation needs to be discussed and acted on by lawmakers. State officials need to be clear about how these broad databases of citizen information are stored, accessed and used, by whom and under what regulations. Then, that information needs to be shared with all citizens without the need to file public records requests or lawsuits.

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