Portland lawmakers unanimously passed a sweeping ban on facial recognition technology, becoming the first city to bar both public and private entities from the controversial software and defeating Amazon’s bid to kill the measure.
The Portland City Council adopted the ban in the form of two separate ordinances on Wednesday. The first will block all city agencies, including the police, from using the tech, while the other prohibits private organizations from deploying facial recognition devices in public places. Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler has hailed the move, saying it sets Portland apart from other cities.
“What makes Portland’s legislation stand out from other cities is that we’re prohibiting facial recognition technology use by private entities in public accommodations,” Wheeler said following Wednesday’s vote.
This is the first of its kind of legislation in the nation.
While the measure pertaining to government agencies applies immediately, the private ban will come into effect in January. Both laws allow only limited exceptions, permitting facial recognition technology used to unlock smartphones, for example, as well as uses inside Portland public schools. Earlier versions of the ordinances also carved out exemptions for US Customs and Border Protection, however that language was struck from the proposals passed on Wednesday.
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Amazon declares ‘moratorium’ on police use of its ‘racist’ facial recognition tech
Though e-commerce giant Amazon announced a one-year “moratorium” on police use of its facial recognition software in June, calling for governments nationwide to impose “stronger regulations to govern the ethical use” of the tech, the company has fiercely fought Portland’s attempt to do precisely that. Despite its claimed commitment to shelving the technology to await stricter controls, Amazon spent a total of $24,000 on lobbying efforts to fight the city’s ban between last December and June, 30, 2020, public records show.
Remember when Amazon made that big hand wavy announcement about how they’re putting a pause on selling facial recognition surveillance software to cops? They’ve simultaneously spent $24,000 lobbying against a ban on face surveillance in Portland, OR https://t.co/KV1gwYn7qu
— Evan Greer (@evan_greer) September 8, 2020
The company was joined by local business groups in opposing the legislation,