“The ban will takes effect immediately with respect to government departments, while private organizations have until January 1, 2020, to comply.”
City authorities in Portland, Oregon, have just passed what may be America’s most extensive municipal ban on facial recognition yet.
While some other cities have implemented legislation banning police departments and other government authorities from using facial recognition technology, Portland appears to be unique in extending its ban to businesses as well, asserting that private organizations can’t deploy facial recognition in public spaces.
The ban will takes effect immediately with respect to government departments, while private organizations have until January 1, 2020, to comply.
The ban passed through city council with a unanimous vote, with concerns about race-based discrepancies in the accuracy of many facial recognition systems having been an important factor in the legislation’s approval. Portland has been the site of anti-racist protests after the killing of George Floyd, with civil unrest escalating after the Trump administration’s dispatch of an ad hoc secret police force to the city.
In a statement, the ACLU praised Portland’s facial recognition ban, with its Oregon chapter’s interim director suggesting that it sets an example for other municipalities to follow. “We hope the passage of this landmark legislation in Portland will spur efforts to enact statewide legislation that protects all Oregonians from the broad range of ways that our biometric information is collected, stored, sold, and used without our permission,” she said.
The ban represents an obvious threat to facial recognition vendors focused on public surveillance applications; and Amazon, which has been marketing its Rekognition software to various police agencies, reportedly spent $24,000 on lobbying Portland’s city council members to vote against the legislation.