Portland Bans Facial Recognition Technology

The law prohibits city departments and public-facing businesses from using the technology.

September 11, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore.—Portland passed a law that prohibits the use of facial recognition technology by police and other city departments, CNN Business reports. The ban also extends to public-facing businesses, such as hotels, restaurants and retailers.

Other cities, including Oakland, Calif., San Francisco and Boston, have also outlawed the use of similar surveillance technology by city departments. Portland’s ban goes even further by applying the law to government and businesses. Portland does not prohibit citizens from using the technology in their homes.

As facial recognition technology has expanded to airport check-in, drugstore surveillance and police departments, so has opposition against the technology because of possible misuse and racial bias. The technology reportedly helps solve crime and take school attendance, for example, but there are fundamental privacy issues involved with widespread use.

“Technology exists to make our lives easier, not for public and private entities to use as a weapon against the very citizens they serve and accommodate,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.

Currently, there are no federal guidelines about the use of facial recognition technology and few states have regulations in place either. Portland’s law immediately goes into effect for the city government and on January 1 for private usage now prohibited under the ordinance.

For more on facial recognition technology and the use of computer vision, read “The ‘Vision’ of Future Checkout” in the August issue of NACS Magazine.