Victory in Portland: Facial recognition banned!

Victory in Portland: Facial recognition banned!

Last night, Portland’s City Council passed a sweeping ban on facial recognition technology. Unlike Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco and Boston, Portland’s law bans not just government use of the technology, but private companies as well.

As pointed out in the ordinance, “Oregon state law only prohibits its use by law-enforcement agencies obtained through the use of body-worn cameras.” The blanket prohibition appears to cover all law-enforcement use of facial recognition.

The second part of the ordinance covering private use of facial recognition technologies should be copied by other localities and implemented federally: Except as provided in the Exceptions section below, a Private Entity shall not use Face Recognition Technologies in Places of Public Accommodation within the boundaries of the City of Portland.

Unfortunately, this does have what would appear to be a legally-necessary exception or complying with federal, state or local laws. Legal challenges to those laws can and should happen.

Also unlike other legislation, it does not appear to have an emergency clause. San Francisco’s, for example, has an entire section (19B.7 for those interested) to allow for use in “exigent circumstances,” defined as “an emergency involving imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to any person that requires the immediate use of Surveillance Technology or the information it provides” with little oversight or review as to how that works.

The victory in Portland comes after federal agents occupied the city and attempted to quash the popular rebellion against police terror. It’s unclear from a legal perspective what, if any, power the legislation could have against federal agencies in the future, but it notably does apply to airlines at Portland International Airport.

Congratulations to the people of Portland on their victory – everyone should be inspired by you!