The Security Industry Association (SIA) has stated that the decision by the City Council of Portland, Oregon, 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.

Ban on facial recognition tech use

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,” stated Security Industry Association (SIA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Don Erickson.

Educating masses on facial recognition technology

It is hardly a model approach to policymaking that any government should adopt"

He adds, “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 at the same time, being mindful of legitimate questions raised about the impact of this technology on all stakeholders, including communities of colour.

Don further stated, “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 his testimony at the Portland City Council hearing on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2020, in opposition to these widespread prohibitions on the use of facial recognition technology.

National Institute of Standards and Technology research paper

As part of the council’s discussion, Portland City 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 in the current scenario, 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 paper that documented that high-performing algorithms perform equally well across different demographics.

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

Lawful, ethical and nondiscriminatory use of facial recognition

SIA believes all technology products, including facial recognition, must only be used for lawful purposes

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.

SIA protects and advances its members’ interests by advocating pro-industry policies and legislation at the federal and state levels, creating open industry standards that enable integration, advancing industry professionalism through education and training, opening global market opportunities and collaborating with other like-minded organisations.

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