t

King County Council approves facial recognition technology ban

Software ban applies to King County Sheriff’s Office

The King County Council unanimously passed a groundbreaking proposal to ban government use of facial recognition software.

The council approved the measure 9-0 on Tuesday, June 1. King County, home to 2.3 million people in and around Seattle, becomes the first county and one of the largest jurisdictions in the United States to pass such a ban.

The legislation, prime sponsored by Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, aims to protect our residents’ civil liberties and freedom from government surveillance and demographic biases by prohibiting the use of such software, including by the King County Sheriff’s Office, except to comply with the National Child Search Assistance Act.

“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,” said County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles. “The use or misuse of these technologies has potentially devastating consequences which the new ordinance will help to prevent.”

Studies have found that facial recognition software is often far more likely to misidentify Black or Asian faces, especially Black women, according to a county council news release.

“The use of this technology is invasive, intrusive, racially biased and full of risks to fundamental civil liberties,” said Councilmember Dave Upthegrove. “I am proud to sponsor this ban which is supported by local community groups, public defenders, immigrants’ rights advocates, racial justice organizations, workers’ rights groups, privacy advocates, and technologists.”

“Today’s unanimous vote to adopt a facial recognition ban is a huge win for the residents of King County and an important step forward in the effort to stop government use of this harmful and racist technology,” said Jennifer Lee, ACLU Washington. “With this vote, King County joins a growing number of local jurisdictions across the nation that have approved similar restrictions. 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 over-policed communities.”




In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@valleyrecord.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.valleyrecord.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Northwest

Stock photo
Too Good To Go app aims to creatively reduce food waste

Nearly 40 percent of all food goes to waste worldwide, according to compnay spokesperson.

King County logo
Auditors find racial disparities in King County contracts

BIPOC-owned businesses earn contract bids at a much lower rate than white-owned businesses.

A plane drops fire retardant on the Palmer Mountain Fire last summer in north-central Washington. Laura Knowlton/Sound Publishing staff photo
Washington can expect a warmer, drier summer – and more wildfires

The threat of wildfires in much of Washington state is expected to… Continue reading

Stock photo
State to allow ‘Joints for Jabs’ promotions to support vaccinations

Retailers temporarily allowed to provide a joint for adults vaccinated at in-store clinics

Pedro Miola inspects the panel to ensure the bees are healthy. (Photo by Cameron Sheppard)
Eye of the bee-holder: Urban beekeeping buzzes in the Pacific Northwest

How a young man on-track to become a doctor found his calling in an ancient trade.

Courtesy image
As vax rates ease in WA, here come the prizes — including $1 million

Incentives range from big cash drawings to sports tickets and tuition. Drawings start next week.

Photos of Kaloni Bolton. (Courtesy of Kristina Williams)
She couldn’t breathe: Child dies from asthma attack at Renton medical clinic

Family of Kaloni Bolton, 12, seeks answers as to why staff couldn’t treat her.

Daniel Scott (center, in green jacket) and Eddie Block (bottom right) are shown in a video before the Proud Boys and other rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C.
Proud Boy ‘Milkshake’ from WA arrested in Capitol siege

Daniel Lyons Scott was “one of the first” to push into U.S. Capitol police lines on Jan. 6, according to the FBI.

Stock photo
Shortage of truck drivers causing fuel shortages at gas stations

Suppliers struggle to keep up with increasing demand for fuel from travelers by car

t
State legislation to promote recycling, reduce plastic waste becomes law

Will ban polystyrene food ware, recreational coolers and packing peanuts