Guest post: Portland could ban facial recognition. You can have a say.

[Editor: The following is a guest post from Kate Kaye, a freelance reporter here in Portland who has been actively researching, monitoring, and reporting on facial recognition technology in Portland.]

Silicon Florist readers know a lot about Portland tech. But did you know early next month Portland City Council could pass the most restrictive ban in the country — potentially the world — on one type of technology?

It’s true. The Rose City is poised to prohibit use of facial recognition. You can learn all about it in Banned in PDX, a podcast from XRAY.fm tracking Portland’s ban.

Unlike other bans in places such as Boston, San Francisco, and Oakland, Portland’s ban wouldn’t stop at city bureaus like the police bureau. It would outlaw facial recognition by all sorts of businesses and privately owned places. Retailers couldn’t use it for security purposes. Banks couldn’t use it to identify account holders. Hotels couldn’t use it to spot their most loyal customers.

Anybody who is familiar with algorithmic tech or has an interest in AI knows that facial recognition is controversial. Those who want to stop it believe it could enable mass surveillance and disproportionately harm minorities, poor people or other vulnerable populations.

But did you know:

  • Facial recognition is used right here to guard entrances at three Portland convenience stores.
  • Amazon, national tech groups and local business groups including Portland Business Alliance and Technology Association of Oregon have lobbied against Portland’s proposed ban.
  • Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley supports city prohibitions on facial recognition like the one proposed in Portland.

Have Your Say: Comment for the Next Episode of Banned in PDX!

I’m a freelance reporter who’s covered Portland’s proposed ban for outlets including GeekWire and OneZero. Right now I’m working on an episode of Banned in PDX all about business opposition to the ban. If you’re in local tech or own or operate a business here and you want to weigh in (in opposition to or support of the ban), I’d love to talk and possibly include your comments in that episode.

Interested? Listen and subscribe to Banned in PDX, and if you want to share your thoughts, get in touch with me at Kate@RedTailMedia.org.