Portland, Maine votes in favor of facial recognition ban

It's the latest city in the US to ban the use of facial recognition by officials.

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Mariella Moon
November 4th, 2020
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Portland, Maine is the latest in the growing list of cities in the US to ban facial recognition technologies. According to Bangor Daily News, people voted in favor of of passing a new measure that strengthens Portland’s existing ban on the use of facial recognition tech by law enforcement agencies and public officials. City councilors originally agreed on a ban back in August with the understanding that the voter referendum would replace their ordinance if it passes. Now that it has passed, it can’t be touched for at least five years.

Back in September, Portland, Oregon passed what could be the strictest municipal ban on facial recognition in the country — one that prohibits even private businesses from deploying the technology in public spaces. Before that, Boston, San Francisco and Oakland also prohibited its use, though their rules only apply to public officials. This pushback against the use of facial recognition technologies stems from various studies that show how they’re struggling with race and gender bias. They still tend to misidentify women and POCs, putting them at risk. Case in point: False facial recognition matches led to at least a couple of wrongful arrests in Detroit this year.

The new measure Portland, Maine has passed will allow citizens to sue the city for illegal surveillance and will make them eligible to receive $100 per violation or $1,000, whichever is higher. It will also require the city to suppress illegally obtained evidence. Plus, violating the ordinance will now be grounds for a city official’s suspension or termination.

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