RealNetworks’ SAFR arms colleges with facial recognition know-how. (SAFR Photo)

In a unanimous vote, the King County Council accepted a ban on legislation enforcement use of facial recognition know-how, making it the primary county within the nation to place such restrictions into legislation.

Tuesday’s 9-0 vote prohibits Seattle-area county administrative and govt places of work from utilizing facial recognition know-how or info to establish suspects or potential suspects. Privacy advocates have sought to ban the usage of such know-how due to its assorted accuracy in figuring out suspects, algorithmic racial biases, and perceived encroachment on civil liberties.

The use of facial recognition technology by government agencies poses distinct threats to our residents, including potential misidentification, bias, and the erosion of our civil liberties,” King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles stated in an announcement.

Kohl-Welles added that facial recognition know-how has nice potential for misuse. “Our vote today makes King County the first county in the nation to pass this type of ban,” she stated.

The ban doesn’t prohibit particular person cities, residents, or colleges inside King County from utilizing facial recognition know-how, solely official county authorities places of work. And it doesn’t prohibit county investigators from buying and selling info with different legislation enforcement companies so long as they didn’t particularly request info gleaned from facial recognition know-how.

In all, the laws accepted by the council is “fairly innocuous,” stated Os Keyes, a facial recognition knowledgeable within the University of Washington’s human-centered design and engineering division.

Keyes praised the laws as broad sufficient to assist shield civil liberties whereas being sufficiently slim that it doesn’t block respectable investigations. “It doesn’t limit interagency cooperation,” they stated, “and it limits general surveillance on a day-to-day basis. It’s thoughtful and short.”

Facial recognition know-how — from government-enabled CCTV methods to Amazon’s Rekognition system — has develop into more and more controversial as privateness advocates assert it’s making a perpetual surveillance state. Amazon and Microsoft not too long ago renewed their bans on gross sales of such know-how to home legislation enforcement.

Keyes, a doctoral candidate on the college, stated the laws accomplishes two vital issues, one apparent and the opposite much less so however equally vital.

First, it prevents the county from establishing a facial recognition digicam system all through the county. These will not be merely video safety methods; they’re information gathering methods that interpret, analyze, and retailer facial information to alert authorities about potential suspects. But the tech shouldn’t be all the time correct, particularly when parsing faces with darker complexions.

Second, Keyes stated, it helps halt the key e-mail exchanges between investigators who ship pictures round for different companies to run by means of facial evaluation methods for departments that lack the know-how or have banned it.

“They have done this in the past to evade the need for a warrant,” Keyes stated. “This is not hypothetical; they had long mailing lists to send photos around on an informal basis.”

The use of a personal, legislation enforcement mailing listing designed for casual, particular sharing facial recognition tech in Washington state was documented in 2019 by the web site OneZero.

The “cross-department requests…includes officers from at least a dozen police departments, from large organizations like the Seattle police and Pierce County Sheriff’s Department to smaller ones like the Richland and Marysville police,” OneZero reported.

Keyes stated the brand new invoice ought to forestall the sort of sharing — not less than relating to King County legislation enforcement. Moreover, they stated, it offers recourse if it continues. “It provides a right-of-action,” they stated. “So the person who is surveilled can sue.”

Cities resembling Portland and San Francisco have accepted such bans. The Washington chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union applauded King County’s new restriction.

“With this vote, King County joins a growing number of local jurisdictions across the nation that have approved similar restrictions,” Jennifer Lee of ACLU Washington stated in an announcement.

She added: “Now it’s time for a federal ban on government use of facial recognition to ensure that no one’s civil liberties and civil rights are violated by a pervasive and often inaccurate technology that disproportionately misidentifies people of color and heightens the risk of surveillance and deadly encounters with law enforcement in already marginalized and overpoliced communities.”