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Portland, Maine Voters Say No to Facial-Recognition Tech

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Just months after Portland, Oregon, passed a strict ban on facial-recognition technology, the East Coast Portland has followed suit.

Voters in Portland, Maine, this week passed a ballot initiative that temporarily bans the public use of facial-recognition technology by law enforcement and other government officials, reports the Bangor Daily NewsBangor Daily News. The initiative was one of five measures that the South Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America got on the ballot this year; four succeeded.

Portland’s city council placed a preliminary ban on facial recognition in August, but this new measure is stronger, banning its use for at least five years. Private citizens are now entitled to a minimum of $1,000 in civil fees if they are surveilled by government officials, reports The Verge, and city employees can be terminated or suspended if they use the technology.

In a 2019 PCMag survey, 31 percent of the 2,000 respondents said that they don’t trust facial-recognition technology. Although it can be used for healthcare needs and making purchases online, the trouble arises when the technology yields inaccurate results.

This can be especially problematic in law enforcement. In January, Robert Williams was wrongfully arrested for a store robbery after the Detroit Police Department used a facial-recognition system to identify him as the suspect. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a formal complaint in response, asking for facial recognition to be taken off the list of acceptable investigation tools, especially since studies have shown that it has a bias problem with it comes to people of color.

Portland follows San Francisco and Oakland in California, as well as Somerville, Massachusetts, in banning the public use of the tech.

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