January 25, 2021

Volume XI, Number 25

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January 22, 2021

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Portland City Council Bans Use of Facial Recognition Technology

On September 9, 2020, the Portland, Oregon City Council voted unanimously to ban the use of facial recognition technology by the city government, including the police department, following similar actions by the cities of Boston and San Francisco. According to one Council member, “[T]his technology just continues to exacerbate the over-criminalization of Black and brown people in our community.” The ordinance requires the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and the Office of Equity and Human Rights to make sure that all city agencies are aware of the ordinance.

The Council stated that the use of biased facial recognition algorithms by law enforcement may cause “irreversible damage due to false identification from a face recognition process,” and its use may prevent city residents from being able to access city services.

In a second ordinance approved on the same night, the Council also prohibited private entities from using facial recognition technology in public places, which would include grocery stores, shopping malls and security cameras on public streets. This is being reported as the first time a city in the United States has enacted such a measure.

In voting to prohibit the use of facial recognition technology by private companies in public areas, the Council noted that facial recognition technology often misidentifies women and people of color, and that the technology can be used contrary to civil liberties and rights of citizens. According to the Council, “there is a risk of discrimination and harm, because face recognition technologies collect sensitive personal information that may lead to different decisions about access for those people for which those technologies are biased against.” The ACLU of Oregon noted “Face surveillance is an invasive threat to our privacy, especially to Black people, Indigenous people, people of color and women, who frequently are misidentified by the technology.”

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Copyright © 2020 Robinson & Cole LLP. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 255
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About this Author

Linn F. Freedman, Robinson Cole Law Firm, Cybersecurity and Litigation Law Attorney, Providence
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Linn Freedman practices in data privacy and security law, cybersecurity, and complex litigation. She provides guidance on data privacy and cybersecurity compliance to a full range of public and private clients across all industries, such as construction, education, health care, insurance, manufacturing, real estate, utilities and critical infrastructure, marine, and charitable organizations. Linn is a member of the firm's Business Litigation Group and chairs its Data Privacy + Cybersecurity Team. She is also a member of the Financial Services Cyber-Compliance Team (CyFi ...

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