Portland Rolls Out ‘Most Aggressive Ban’ on US Facial Recognition to Protect Citizens from Racial and Criminal Tagging


The municipality of Portland, Oregon, passes new ordinances and legislations that protects its citizens from unlawful identification and branding from the United States’ Facial Recognition system, dubbed as the ‘most aggressive ban’ on the technology. The city council achieved a feat that protects its citizens from third-party and private stakeholders of the system.

According to Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS), the ordinance was deliberated on September 9, on the city’s council hearing. The hearing resulted in a success that passed the rule prohibiting the use of Facial Recognition Technologies in any of the Bureaus in the City of Portland.

Local city departments, agencies, law enforcement, and even private stakeholders such as restaurants, hotels, and shops are prohibited from using facial recognition technology, once made available for everyone.

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Portland’s BPS is now working alongside the Office of Equity and Human Rights to create awareness and enforce actions towards the new policy banning Facial Recognition software. Portland’s city council believes that the technology is harmful, unlawful, and may even lead to bias against marginalized sectors.

The city saw the bias against people of color, women, and the elderly, with Facial Recognition technology. This bias led to the decision of the town to ban and remove anything related to the process. Portland believes that the use of this technology prohibits its citizens from utilizing and accessing the city’s services reasonably.

The city ordinance protects its citizens, mostly from law enforcement, in case damages are done on innocent people causing irreversible effects. False identification from facial recognition is possible and will cause potential harm.

A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds that skin color and gender to be huge factors that trigger facial recognition systems to report false positives and show an error.

Light-skinned men only have a small 0.8 percent error rate. Error rate meaning the probability of a specified population to be incorrectly identified or tagged as a criminal. On the other hand, dark-skinned women are more likely to be misidentified with 34.7 percent error rate.

The US Federal Government even observed this trend and error rate, transcending in facial recognition systems, in a separate study that aims to test the technology. The study found that demographics present an essential factor in the facial recognition systems that somehow triggers incorrect profiling.

The city of Portland is the fourth to raise this concern and ban the facial recognition system that is deemed unlawful and biased. Portland shares the same sentiments with Oakland, San Fransisco, and most recently, Boston, who all initially filed their bans.

These cities across the country all attest to the same problem facial recognition systems bring: Bias. The first three to pass this prohibited its government from accessing the technology to protect its citizens from racial and criminal discrimination.

Portland’s actions and efforts, on the other hand, is considered to be the most extensive of them all for banning even the private sectors from access. Third-party stakeholders are now prohibited to gain access from facial recognition systems as much as the local government of the city.

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This article is owned by Tech Times


Written by Isaiah Alonzo


Gender and Skin Color Bias on Facial Recognition


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