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Celtics players pen op-ed in The Boston Globe on police use of facial-recognition technology

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 11: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics unveils the new City Edition uniforms during a workout at the Auerbach Center on November 11, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Keith Sliney/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Jaylen Brown and other Celtics have used their platform around the team and NBA to raise concerns about racial justice. These efforts have drawn significant consideration from sports fans.

Now, Celtics players are trying to reach a different audience – readers of The Boston Globe opinion section.

There’s something powerful about an op-ed with “By Boston Celtics Players.” They used that attention-grabbing byline to call for greater limits on police use of facial-recognition technology.

Excerpts of the op-ed:

Studies confirm that face recognition surveillance technology is flawed and biased, with significantly higher error rates when used against people of color and women. The ACLU of Massachusetts tested a widely available face recognition application last year, comparing official headshots of 188 New England athletes with a database of mugshots. Unsurprisingly, 27 professional athletes, including two Celtics players, were falsely matched.
In those rare situations where the technology might give police officers a useful lead in the investigation of serious crimes, the bill would allow them to get a warrant to compare images of suspects with images already held by the government. If police really think face recognition will help solve crime, let it go through the same process as every other invasive investigative tool.

I suggest reading the piece in full.

The players are correct: Facial-recognition technology fuels sloppy policework and miscarriages of justice. The technology is treated as far more reliable than it really is. Unchecked, it also allows the government to be far too intrusive into the lives of citizens.

Like with many elements of our system that trample on people’s rights, Black people are disproportionately harmed by facial-recognition technology. Black people are both more likely to be treated heavy-handedly by the police generally and misidentified by this technology specifically.

Hopefully, this op-ed draws more attention to an important issue.

The piece was attributed to every Celtics player ticketed for the regular-season roster: Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Kemba Walker, Tristan Thompson, Robert Williams III, Daniel Theis, Semi Ojeleye, Jeff Teague, Javonte Green, Grant Williams, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford, Tremont Waters, Tacko Fall, Payton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith.