Who can, and who can’t, use facial recognition in Portland, Oregon

In a recent edition of ID News Track, the International Biometrics + Identity Association highlighted an interesting wrinkle in Portland, Oregon’s facial recognition law.

As many in the identity industry already know, Portland is one of several cities that have passed some type of ban on facial recognition. Portland’s law not only bans the city government from using facial recognition technology, but also bans private businesses such as grocery stores from using the technology.

(As an aside, one private business, Jacksons Food Stores, uses facial recognition to let known customers into its stores late at night, in an effort to keep the stores safe. Once the ban goes into effect, Jacksons Food Stores is considering closing the stores altogether during the late night hours, since it can’t guarantee the safety of shoppers if facial recognition is not used.)

But the IBIA linked to a New York Times article that noted one group of people that is exempt from the facial recognition ban – and why at least one person thinks this is a good thing.

During the public comment period before Portland’s City Council passed its facial recognition ban, one person spoke up to make sure that he could still use facial recognition.

It’s pertinent to note that opponents of facial recognition fear that the police will use facial recognition to target people. And considering that there have been a number of protests in Portland over the last several months, some citizens are worried about police overreach.

The situation has become so tense that police officers have refused to identify themselves, and have even taped over their names on their name badges.

So how do you recognize a potentially lawbreaking police officer who has obfuscated his or her name?

Christopher Howell had a solution, but the Portland City Council’s action threatened to endanger it.

From the New York Times:

“I am involved with developing facial recognition to in fact use on Portland police officers, since they are not identifying themselves to the public,” Mr. Howell said.

Howell specifically asked the City Council if the facial recognition ban applied to him.

The mayor checked with the city’s lawyer, who clarified that while the facial recognition ban applied to private businesses, it didn’t apply to private individuals.

So this gives Howell the caveat to continue to monitor police who don’t identify themselves.

I’m not sure how this affects the legality of home security systems, however. While a homeowner can presumably set up a home security system, can a private company sell a home security system with facial recognition to the homeowner? After all, an even stricter privacy law in Illinois (the Biometric Information Privacy Act) has caused Google to add this fine print to its Nest Hello Video Doorbell offering:

Familiar face alerts not available on Nest Hello in Illinois.

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