Portland plan to ban facial recognition gets eyes around US

Civic Affairs

Proposal would ban private businesses from using facial recognition

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The proposal in front of Portland City Council to place more restrictions on facial recognition technology than any other city is making national headlines.

This proposal, different than other city-bans across the country, seeks to ban the controversial technology in both the public and the private sector. No other city in the nation has done this before.

The ban would make technology that matches faces of people to images in databases off-limits to both city government and private businesses that may use it for security.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who is behind this proposal, is concerned with how the technology is designed and its impact on different communities.

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Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, 2018 (KOIN)

“These are matters of privacy, consent, and civil rights,” Hardesty said. “The technology is currently very biased on people of color and women.”

“Because this software is so unreliable as it relates to women and communities of color, we will never, ever, ever, ever be able to improve the technology and software so that it is not bias in how it is used and how the data is collected,” Hardesty said.

Ken Westin, Director of Security Solutions at Elastic, said that while the technology can be useful using facial recognition can create more problems if not regulated.

“There’s a lot of concerns with that because they don’t really know how this data is being stored, who is using this information,” Westin said. “It’s very similar to your fingerprint or your DNA.”

Portland’s proposal comes after cities like Oakland, San Franciso and Somerville, Massachusetts have already banned the use of the facial recognition technology. Officials with the Portland Police Bureau told KOIN 6 News they don’t use technology and have no current plans to look into it.

The Portland City Council plans a second work session for January 28. Public meetings for the public to weigh in will be scheduled in early 2020. If the proposal is passed it would take affect in Spring 2020.

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