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caption: Surveillance cameras, like the one here in Boston, are used throughout Massachusetts. The state now regulates how police use facial recognition technology.
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Surveillance cameras, like the one here in Boston, are used throughout Massachusetts. The state now regulates how police use facial recognition technology.
Credit: AP

King County Council bans facial recognition software in government agencies

The King County Sheriff's Office will be prevented from using facial recognition technology, as will any other county agency.

That’s thanks to new legislation approved unanimously by the King County Council Tuesday.

County Executive Dow Constantine is expected to sign the legislation into law in a few weeks.

King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles sponsored the bill. “Profits of major tech and security industries do not outweigh anyone’s right to justice, to privacy, to due process and civil liberties,” she said just before the bill was approved 9-0.

Scholars have demonstrated how Amazon’s facial recognition software has significant trouble identifying people with dark skin. This can lead to mistaken identity and wrongful arrests.

The bill includes an exception: Law enforcement can still use the tech to locate missing children.

The bill does not regulate private companies. However, Amazon banned its own technology from use in police departments. The one year ban was announced in June 2020. In May 2021, the company extended the ban indefinitely.

This story has been updated.