Yesterday, Portland City Council voted unanimously to ban facial recognition in Portland, Oregon. It’s being called an “historic” move. And regarded as one of the toughest facial recognition bans in the United States. Here’s a roundup of all the coverage about this historic and precedent setting move.
OneZero: Portland Passes Groundbreaking Ban on Facial Recognition in Stores, Banks, Restaurants and More
Amid sometimes violent protests and counter-protests around racial justice, today Portland, Oregon legislators unanimously passed groundbreaking new legislation to ban the use of facial recognition technology, which some see as a victory for civil rights and digital justice. The ban covers use of the technology in both privately owned places as well as by city agencies.
ACLU of Oregon: Comment on Portland ban of facial recognition technology
“Face surveillance is an invasive threat to our privacy, especially to Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, and women, who frequently are misidentified by the technology. We appreciate Commissioner Hardesty’s leadership and applaud Portland for banning the government and corporate use of facial recognition technology.
Both ordinances hold that facial recognition technology has a disparate impact on underprivileged communities, particularly people of color and people with disabilities, and that those disproportionate effects fall afoul of the city’s commitment to “human rights principles such as privacy and freedom of expression.” Any framework for city use of facial recognition and other technologies must include “impacted communities and transparent decision-making authority” to ensure that the city does not “harm civil rights and civil liberties.”
Portland’s ban on facial recognition isn’t the first, but it’s the strictest. Cities like San Francisco, Boston and Oakland, California, have all passed legislation banning just government agencies from using facial recognition.
Because no federal guidelines exist to limit or standardize the use of such surveillance technology, and few state rules are in place, municipalities are left to decide for themselves what, if anything, to do to control its use. In the case of Portland, the prohibition begins immediately for Portland’s city government, and on January 1 for private uses of facial recognition technology that are no longer allowed under the rule.
Digital Trends: Portland bans private and public use of facial recognition tech
What’s more, the new legislation enables Portland citizens with the right to sue for the unlawful use of facial recognition by non-compliant private entities. This part especially has said to have been opposed heavily by business groups including Amazon that reportedly spent $24,000 lobbying the city’s council commissioners against the ban.
Portland has been eyeing facial-recognition regulations since 2018, citing increasing concern over privately owned surveillance systems without a clear due process. “While uses of [the technology] may have benefits, the risk of misidentification and misuse is always present,” the document continued.
Civil liberties and privacy watchdogs say widespread use of facial recognition by government agencies or in commercial settings could turn the places we live into invasive surveillance states. Studies and tests have shown that some facial recognition systems fail to accurately detect women or people with darker skin tones.
The Portland, Ore., City Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted two landmark ordinances banning city and private use of facial recognition technology. The first bars all city bureaus from acquiring or using the controversial technology with minimal exceptions for personal verification.The second blocks private entities from using the software that scans faces to identify them in all public accommodations.
The private sector ban bars businesses from using facial recognition technology in public areas within Portland city limits. For example, a private business could not have a camera equipped with the technology capturing people on a public sidewalk.
The city has at least one business that uses facial recognition technology. Jacksons Food Store has at least three locations where customers’ faces are scanned to open the front door.
Portland’s dual bans on the public and private use of facial recognition may serve as a road map for other cities looking to carve out similar digital privacy policies — an outcome privacy advocates are hoping for.
The Portland, Oregon City Council today unanimously voted to adopt two of the strongest bans on facial recognition technologies in the U.S. One prohibits the public use of facial recognition by city bureaus, including the Portland Police Department, while the other bans all private use in places of “public accommodation,” like parks and buildings. The ordinances originally contained an amendment that would have allowed airlines in partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to collect facial recognition data on travelers at the Portland International Airport. But the proposals voted on today make exemptions only for Portland public schools.
After a City Hall session attended by technology companies and local businesses in late January, the private sector has ramped up lobbying efforts to undermine or end the legislation. Since late last year, Amazon has spent $24,000 silently lobbying Portland city council commissioners to soften the legislation’s language and create loopholes or exemptions in the facial recognition ban.