Portland Becomes First US City To Ban Government’s Facial Recognition
Portland has become the first US city to ban the government and other ‘private entities’ from using facial recognition in public places.
Oregon lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favour of the ban yesterday, September 9, with a unanimous decision on the dual ordinances – one aimed at the technology’s use on a government level, the other targeting corporations and other ‘private institutions’.
While facial recognition has seen a sharp uptick in recent years via the ubiquity of smartphones, people have raised concerns over its use in other areas, whether it be police departments or other businesses, with fears it could be an infringement on civil rights.
The City of Portland ordinance notes the technology ‘raises general concerns around privacy, intrusiveness, and lack of transparency. The lack of transparency and accountability, in addition to biased technologies – particularly in the context of false positives in law enforcement – can create devastating impacts on individuals and families.’
Mayor Ted Wheeler said during the hearing, as OneZero reports:
Portlanders should never be in fear of having their right of privacy be exploited by either their government or by a private institution. All Portlanders and frankly all people are entitled to a city government that will not use technology with a demonstrated racial and gender bias which endangers personal privacy.
Echoing the events in other US cities, Portland has seen multiple Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death and more. With excessive force and wrongful arrests at the forefront of the conversation, those against facial recognition argue it could exacerbate perennial racial biases.
No city agency in Portland currently uses facial recognition or biometric technologies, likewise for the police. However, the ordinance has also ordered each bureau director to carry out an immediate review to ensure this is the case.
City Council Commissioner Chloe Eudaly added:
How many times have we heard of wrongful arrests, assaults, convictions and deaths of Black boys and men because they resemble a suspect? These are the very people who are most likely to be misidentified by this technology. Technology should not amplify existing bias and perpetuate racism. It can and should be a tool to help solve for these social ills.
A wide array of private businesses are now prohibited from using the technology, such as restaurants, shops, Airbnb, Uber and other publicly accessible facilities or providers. Any firms already using facial recognition must stop by January 1, 2021.
There are a few exceptions, including churches, private clubs and residences, and using the technology to unlock your personal smartphone. People will also be able to sue companies that violate the law, with damages of up to $1,000 for each day of collecting their data unlawfully, Business Insider reports.
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