Security Industry Association Says Portland, Ore., Facial Recognition Bans Are Shortsighted

SIA position on Portland, Oregon, facial recognition ordinance ban

City council’s decision to prohibit the technology’s use by businesses impacts companies’ ability to secure their facilities and property and protect their people and customers.

SILVER SPRING, Md. – The Security Industry Association (SIA) says that the decision by the city council of Portland, Ore., to ban facial recognition technology use by businesses in places of public accommodation starting January 2021 and to prohibit all city government use of facial recognition technologies are shortsighted decisions that do not consider effective and beneficial applications of facial recognition.

The Portland ordinance prohibiting private entities’ use of facial recognition technologies affects any business providing goods, services or other accommodations to the public and will impact businesses’ ability to protect workers, customers, facilities and property, since it effectively targets business use of security systems.

“Turning back the clock on technological advancement through a complete ban on private-sector use of technology that clearly keeps our fellow citizens safe is not a rational answer during this period of social unrest in Portland,” said SIA CEO Don Erickson. “It is hardly a model approach to policymaking that any government should adopt. Let’s act together now to thoughtfully educate the public about the legal and effective use of facial recognition technology while being mindful of legitimate questions raised about the impact of this technology on all stakeholders, including communities of color. We continue to invite local leaders across the country to work with us to develop more sensible approaches to the use of facial recognition.”

SIA’s Senior Director of Government Relations Jake Parker provided testimony at the Portland city council hearing on Thursday, Sept. 9, in opposition to these widespread prohibitions.

As part of the council’s discussion, Portland Councilwoman Jo Ann Hardesty stated prior to the vote that the council would revisit the ban when there is technology that is not racially biased and is tested by independent third parties.

SIA notes that such technology is available today, and in July, SIA authored and submitted a letter to Portland’s mayor and city council, which noted the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s research documenting that high-performing algorithms perform equally well across different demographics.

The letter stated: “The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the world’s leading authority on this technology, found last year that the highest performing technologies had ‘undetectable’ differences across demographic groups—accuracy rates well above 99% and undetectable false positive differences across demographics, even when tested against galleries of up to 12 million images.”

SIA believes all technology products, including facial recognition, must only be used for purposes that are lawful, ethical and nondiscriminatory, and recently released and committed to a series of principles to be used in the development and deployment of facial recognition, ensuring the technology is used in a transparent and nondiscriminatory way that implements privacy protections and human oversight into its use.

SIA welcomes working with cities and government on future facial recognition ordinances and policies to ensure decisions are based upon facts and a complete understanding of current technologies and that such policies consider widespread public support for the benefits of this technology.