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Fighting Surveillance Tech: Seattle Surveillance Ordinance & Port Biometrics


This is an online event.



On September 9th, the Portland City Council passed two facial recognition ban bills. With the first, the City joined a group of thirteen other cities in addressing use of the technology by public agencies. Portland went a step further, though, and became the first city in the US, and possibly the world, to also ban use of facial recognition technology by private entities!

While banning facial recognition limits tracking of our faces as we go about our daily lives, a number of other biometric technologies such as gait recognition, iris and retina scans, and heartbeat recognition can be used to work around these bans. Even non-biometric technologies, like automatic license plate readers (ALPR) and social media monitoring, can also be used to track our movements and actions. For this reason, the City must also consider limiting use of other surveillance technologies and create a broader surveillance ordinance.

Several US cities, including Seattle, Oakland, and Somerville, MA, have adopted such ordinances, which typically require public input as well as City Council approval before surveillance technologies can be used by government agencies.

This presentation will cover a brief overview of the Seattle Surveillance Ordinance, recommendations for Portland privacy/tech activists about passing a Portland Surveillance Ordinance, and recent activism happening regarding the use of biometric technologies at the Port of Seattle (namely at SeaTac airport). The overarching focus will be more on specific takeaways for Portland based on what activists have learned in Seattle. It will also touch on the broader collection of biometric information. Since Seattle has one of the earliest Surveillance Ordinances in the nation, it also has a number of imperfections (like any beta or v1 software). There are some important lessons that Portland could learn from Seattle, in the hopes of Portland eventually having a stronger Surveillance Ordinance of its own.

The first roughly 45 minutes will consist of the presentation and the remaining time is set aside for questions and discussion. Please bring your questions! We hope for a lively and interactive discussion after the presentation.

Speaker bio:

The speaker has nearly a decade of experience working in tech, primarily in cybersecurity. More recently, they've been civically engaged in regards to surveillance technology in the greater Seattle, WA area.

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