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In historic first, Portland bans corporations from using facial recognition tech on the public

But Portland residents can still use facial recognition tech, like the kind found in iPhones and Nest cameras.

In historic first, Portland bans corporations from using facial recognition tech on the public
[Photo: Jake Weirick/Unsplash]
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Over the past year, several U.S. cities have taken steps to ban or limit the use of facial recognition technology to surveil people. Yet these bans were only applied to government departments and police. As of today, Portland, Oregon, has surpassed those bans in an effort to protect its citizens from surveillance.

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Not only has Portland banned government departments and police from using facial recognition tech on the public, but they’ve also banned corporations from doing so too. The historic ban means no business—be it a bank or a local pizza restaurant—will be able to use facial recognition tech on anyone within Portland’s city limits.

The ban specifically limits private entities from using facial recognition tech in places of public accommodation from January 1, 2021. City council commissioners passed the ordinance by a unanimous vote. As CNN reports, announcing the ban, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said, “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.”

In a statement, the ACLU of Oregon, which supported the ban, said, “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. We appreciate Commissioner Hardesty’s leadership and applaud Portland for banning the government and corporate use of facial recognition technology.”

One important thing to note, however—the ban does not apply to individuals. So Portland residents can still continue to use, for example, Nest security cameras on their private property and phones with facial recognition, like the iPhone, anywhere in the city. The ban only includes government and business use of facial recognition surveillance tools.