The City of Portland passed an ordinance Wednesday prohibiting private companies’ use of facial recognition technologies in places of public accommodation, making it the first city to do so.
Facial recognition technology is primarily used to identify, verify, or detect an individual based on their facial features. Portland had already made efforts to ban public institutions from using this technology when it passed a similar city regulation in August. The new law is the first of its kind to extend such limitations to private entities.
The ordinance specifies that “Portland residents and visitors should enjoy access to public spaces with a reasonable assumption of anonymity and personal privacy.” Beyond privacy concerns, when using this technology in public spaces, the technology has also not been perfected. The city recognizes these concerns and cites, “Face Recognition Technologies have been documented to have an unacceptable gender and racial bias … indiscriminate use of these technologies will degrade civil liberties and enable spaces or services that may be unfair to Black, Indigenous and People of Color.”
In addition to prohibiting the use of facial recognition technology, city agencies will collaborate on a plan to create public awareness around the risks associated with the technology, lead an effort to promote digital rights including privacy and information protection, and finally, engage with the diverse public during the development of comprehensive surveillance technology policies.
While the previous ordinance impacting pubic institutions went into effect after 90 days, this new regulation will not be effective until January 1, 2021.