Portland joins other US cities banning facial recognition with the most restrictive law

This Ordinance prohibits the use of Face Recognition Technologies by all City of Portland bureaus. It also directs the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and the Office of Equity and Human Rights to coordinate actions to create awareness among City bureaus.

“I believe what we’re passing is model legislation that the rest of the country will be emulating as soon as we have completed our work here,” said Portland City Council Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty during the city council session. “This is really about making sure that we are prioritizing our most vulnerable community members and community members of color.” Hardesty has been a vocal advocate for a facial recognition ban in the city for over a year.

“The bans address concerns around privacy and intrusiveness, oversurveillance, lack of transparency, gender and race bias. Portlanders need assurance that the City of Portland is not using untested technologies with demonstrated racial and gender biases, that compromise personal privacy, and that may wrongfully ensnare individuals in the criminal justice system.” says the press release.

Many large corporations tried unsuccessfully to stop or water down the coming ban. 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 regulation.

Also, last Friday, Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly published an opinion blog describing the dangers and privacy concerns of facial recognition.

Commissioner Chloe Eudaly

“Facial recognition is a runaway train, running over our rights and endangering our communities in the name of profit, using fear as fuel. They claim their technology will make us safer. 1984 by George Orwell is a dystopian novel, not a business plan. A cursory search yields numerous accounts of misidentifications and rampant abuse. Including the Clearview scandal which revealed that although they claimed their technology would only be provided to law enforcement they were in fact allowing their wealthy investors to use it as a personal spy toy. They were also caught scraping social media for photos to add to their database. And in Maryland, ICE used facial recognition technology on millions of driver’s photos without a court order.” Eudaly says.

These are unacceptable and irresponsible practices. These companies should be ashamed of themselves for unleashing this flawed technology on our communities, further endangering some of our most vulnerable community members. 

“We join just a handful of major American cities that have banned facial recognition technology, and I hope that our actions here today inspire more cities to take up this issue. ” Eudaly concluded.

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