Earlier this week, voters in Portland, Maine passed a ballot that forbids city agencies and police from using facial recognition.
Security agencies and police departments from all over the US have expressed their interest in applying facial recognition in identifying criminals. At the same time, many privately-owned companies expressed their interest in using this tech as well.
Facial recognition is a technology that can map out a person’s dominant facial features like eye spacing, eye shape, nose lines, jaw, etc. Then the facial recognition software calculates the distance between multiple reference points. The result of that is making a one of a kind profile, much like a fingerprint. Once that is done, the digital profile can be compared to faces in various databases such as passport photos, ID photos, police mugshots, driver’s licenses, etc.
Law enforcement agencies argued that this tech might help them be more effective in crime investigation and protecting public safety. Privacy advocates believe that this technology can lead to the surveillance of innocent citizens and goes against their privacy rights.
Voters in Portland, Maine said no to the use of the tech. This means that neither the police nor any private company can deploy facial recognition in its surveillance cameras
As a result, if any local government officials surveilled any private citizen and identified using face recognition, they can claim a minimum of $1,000 compensation. At the same time, any civil servant caught violating this ban risks being suspended or terminated from their job.
Before Portland, the cities of San Francisco and Boston also voted against using facial recognition by local police and other city agencies. Earlier this year, Democrats introduced a bill that bans the use of facial recognition on a federal level.
This measure is a follow-up on a similar initiative that the city council voted on earlier this year. The new ban replaces that initiative and presents a way stronger shield against the use of facial recognition. The measure passed by popular vote was one of five other policies presented in front of Portland residents. The ban cannot be re-polled for at least five years.