Portland Passes a Sweeping Ban on Facial Recognition Tech

Portland, Oregon is the first city to declare facial recognition technology unlawful. The city's lawmakers unanimously voted to pass a comprehensive new law banning both private and public use of facial recognition.

While other cities like Oakland, San Francisco, and Boston have already banned government agencies from using facial surveillance technology, Portland is the first city to ban their private use.

"Portlanders should never fear that their right to privacy is being exploited by their government or any private institution," Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (via OneZero) said during the hearing. "All Portlanders, and frankly all human beings, are entitled to city government that does not use technology with a proven racist and gender bias that compromises privacy."

The city council set the new legislature as two ordinances. One of them is effective immediately and bans facial recognition technology in city offices, including law enforcement agencies. The office managers were also asked to submit a full assessment of their facial recognition use within 90 days.

The second version will go live next January and prohibit privately owned publicly accessible locations such as shops, banks, Airbnb rentals, entertainment establishments, restaurants, etc., from using facial recognition technology.

In addition, the new legislation gives Portland citizens the right to sue the unlawful use of facial recognition by non-compliant private entities. This part is said to have been vehemently opposed in particular by groups of companies like Amazon, which reportedly spent $ 24,000 lobbying city council commissioners against the ban.

Facial recognition technology has been repeatedly criticized and viewed as racist – resulting in unlawful arrests and convictions. “Technology shouldn't reinforce prejudice and perpetuate racism. It can and should be a tool to solve these social problems, ”Portland City Council Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said at the hearing.

Several technology companies, including IBM and Microsoft, have withdrawn their facial recognition research and products. In early June this year, Microsoft announced that it would not sell its facial recognition monitoring software to law enforcement agencies. With this legislation, Portland is setting a much-needed precedent for the rest of the states, but it remains to be seen whether more cities will follow suit.

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