Privacy SOS

Victory! Somerville passes surveillance oversight ordinance

Last night Somerville became the third city in Massachusetts to enact a law requiring city council oversight and control of all municipal government surveillance, following Cambridge and Lawrence. The ordinance was approved at the City Council by unanimous vote. City Councilor Ben Ewen-Campen led the charge to pass the new law, with the support of the ACLU, local residents, his colleagues on the City Council, and Mayor Joe Curtatone’s office.

Somerville’s passage of a strong community control over surveillance law follows just months after the Metro Boston community became the second city nationwide to ban the municipal government from using face surveillance technology. Efforts are currently underway in neighboring communities, including Cambridge, and Brookline, to pass similar bans.

The Somerville law is one of many nationwide that impose democratic controls over local surveillance technologies and practices. In 2016, the ACLU, along with civil rights groups like the NAACP and the Council on American Islamic Relations, launched a nationwide campaign to pass Community Control Over Police Surveillance (CCOPS) laws across the United States. If you’re interested in organizing to fight for a CCOPS law in your city or town, please check out the ACLU’s resource page.

© 2020 ACLU of Massachusetts.