Portland To Become The First City to Ban Facial Recognition For Private Businesses

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Portland, Oregon, is planning to ban the use of facial recognition technologies for both federal authorities and private businesses in the city. 

Current bans on facial recognition such as the ones in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkely in California, and Somerville in Massachusetts, do not allow the use of facial recognition by the city authorities, including the local police departments. 

If Portland City Council approves the pending legislation next year, the ban will also apply to private businesses. If it makes it to law and enters into force in spring 2020, the move could make the city's ban the most restrictive in the country. 

According to Portland city commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, lawmakers in California primary focused on the government because of concerns about whether police rely too much on the technology's often arguable accuracy. 

For instance, it has been proved that facial recognition technology has high rates of false positives for women and people of color. It means that the could easily be misidentified and chased for something they did not do, Hardesty added.

Even if those issues are improved on, the automated surveillance and collection of bio-metric data is not acceptable, the commissioner noted.

Portland's city commissioner was also worried about how private companies collect and store personal data. Earlier this summer, it turned out that Amazon's doorbell camera Ring is working with the law enforcement departments, providing access to its platform in exchange for outreach to residents.

According to Ring, cooperation helps police to solve crimes, while critics say that the company is quietly working on a for-profit private surveillance network. 

Hardesty also emphasized the dangers of purely-private sector face detection and analysis. For example, some retailers have been testing and deploying facial recognition tech to check customers against images of known shoplifters.

Furthermore, some live entertainment companies such as AEG Presents and Live Nation used to deploy facial recognition to identify ticket owners and facilitate their access to venues or services. Following protests from musicians, both companies halter their plans.

Beaver State's largest city proves to be the first city nationwide to put equal weight on the dangers of unlimited use of facial recognition software by both private companies and law enforcement. 

"We should make it clear that the automated surveillance state is not welcome in the city of Portland," city's commissioner Hardesty concluded.

The Portland City Council is set to have another session on the ban in early 2020.

What do you think? Do you believe that more US cities should follow Portland's example?