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King County could be first in nation to ban government use of facial recognition technology

(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

King County could become the first in the nation to ban the government’s use of facial recognition technology.

The technology is used by police and is triggering a growing outcry around the country.

During a virtual King County Council meeting on Wednesday, people shared their concerns as the council took up the idea for the first time.

“This technology poses unprecedented civil liberties, privacy and equity concerns,” one man said.

“Who, in a free society, wants to have the only means of opting out of this surveillance by never leaving one’s home?” another person commented.

The American Civil Liberties Union stated the technology makes a lot of mistakes.

“This technology disproportionately misidentifies people of color, women, trans people and nonbinary people supercharging discrimination,” one woman told the council.

A new state law limiting government use of facial recognition takes effect July 1.

However, King County’s council member, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, said the county should ban it altogether.

“I’m just too concerned about all that can go wrong with what we have now,” she said.

Neither the state law nor the proposed county ban would affect private companies.

A King County ban would apply to most of the county government, including the sheriff’s office, where a spokesman told KIRO 7 the technology is not being used.

The Security Industry Association stated technology by the leading companies does not have a bias problem and that a ban would be a mistake.

Jake Parker with the Security Industry Association stated, “It also would ban important applications of the technology that really have nothing to do with surveillance, including use of tools available to law enforcement to help find missing children who are involved in human trafficking. Many thousands of them have been rescued through the technology in the last couple of years.”

A preliminary council vote on the King County ban could come as early as May 5.

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