Portland Approves First-Ever Corporate Ban on Facial Recognition in U.S.

The groundbreaking legislation prohibits the use of facial recognition technology in both privately owned establishments as well as by city agencies.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The city council here on Wednesday passed a sweeping ban on the commercial deployment of facial recognition technology that experts say is the strongest such rule in the United States.

The city council passed two ordinances to ban the use of facial recognition by both public and private entities. One ordinance makes Portland the first U.S. city to prohibit use of facial recognition technologies inside privately owned places accessible to the public, such as restaurants, retail stores, banks, entertainment venues, public transit stations, law and doctors’ offices, among other types of businesses and living facilities.

A second ordinance gives people the right to sue and win damages for the unlawful use of facial recognition, one of many components of the legislation that prompted opposition from business groups. It lets people sue noncompliant private entities for $1,000 per day for each day of violation or for damages sustained as a result of the violation, whichever is greater.

The legislation was strongly opposed by local, state and national businesses, including Amazon, the Technology Association of Oregon., and the International Identity and Biometrics Association. Amazon spent a total of $24,000 to lobby city council commissioners against the ban, OneZero reports.

Following passage of the legislation, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said it hoped the ban in Portland would spur similar efforts in jurisdictions across the state of Oregon.

In a prepared statement, Jann Carson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Oregon, said face recognition surveillance poses an invasive threat to citizens’ privacy, “especially to Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, and women, who frequently are misidentified by the technology.

“We hope the passage of this landmark legislation in Portland will spur efforts to enact statewide legislation that protects all Oregonians from the broad range of ways that our biometric information is collected, stored, sold, and used without our permission.”

The Portland City Council also voted to ban local government agencies from acquiring or using the facial technology, following similar legislation by several U.S. cities. In June, Boston became the second largest city in the U.S. to ban facial recognition technology following San Francisco, which took the action last May. Many campuses around the country are also banning the technology.

Advocates for the lawful and ethical application of biometric identification, including the Security Industry Association (SIA), have recently pursued efforts to increase awareness around these technologies. For example, in August SIA released new policy principles guiding the development and deployment of facial recognition technology.

The document discusses the responsible and effective use of facial recognition technology and makes recommendations for public- and private-sector applications of the technology. Upon release of the policy principles, SIA CEO Don Erickson stated, “SIA recognizes that some community leaders have expressed deeply-held views calling for the end of facial recognition technology use by law enforcement and the private sector. We respectfully but firmly disagree. Facial recognition technology offers tremendous benefits to society when used effectively and responsibly and with appropriate safeguards.”

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About the Author


Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for latimes.com. Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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