Hamden, CT bans facial recognition
Photo of Hamden, CT Town Hall: Magicpiano on Wikipedia.

Hamden, CT bans facial recognition

In a unanimous vote of the Legislative Council on September 20th, the town of Hamden CT has banned the use of facial recognition technology by the town or anyone acting on behalf of the town, like contractors, subcontractors or vendors.

In the ordinance, Councilor Brad Macdowall noted that “facial recognition technology has a history of being far less accurate in identifying the faces of women, young people, and people of color and that such inaccuracies place certain persons at an elevated risk of harmful ‘false positive’ identifications.” Of particular distinction is that no cutout exists for “emergency use” that have been put into policies in other areas.

Explicitly banned by the ordinance are obtaining, retaining, accessing or using “any facial recognition system” or “any information obtained from a facial recognition system.” This prevents the town from using software like Clearview AI and Amazon Rekognition. Additionally, information that is gathered from any such system cannot be used in any official matter as evidence in the City.

In a message to Tech for the People, Macdowall said:

I’m very excited that we were able to get this critical piece of legislation passed here in Hamden. I think the fact that it passed unanimously after so much discussion demonstrates the importance and urgency of this issue and I hope this will be an example for municipalities across the state and the country that they have the ability and responsibility to protect residents from these dangerously unregulated and untested technologies.

The unanimous vote is significant for the town of 61,000, which is dealing with a fraught and divisive Mayoral campaign, budget crisis and ongoing protest of the behavior of the Hamden Police Department. As of writing, the bill is being sent to Mayor Curt Leng for his signature to enact.

Situated next to New Haven, Hamden’s ordinance sets an example for the rest of the state and joins cities like Berkeley, San Francisco and Oakland CA, Somerville and Northampton MA, Portland OR, Minneapolis MN among others.

Updated 2:30pm with a quote from Brad Macdowall