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Portland to take up proposed ban on facial recognition technology

Advocates say the face-scanning tech could pose a threat to privacy and civil rights.

PORTLAND, Maine — City leaders in Maine’s largest city will be taking up a number of hot-button issues Monday night. Among them: a proposed ban on facial recognition technology.

The ban seeks to prohibit the use of all facial recognition technology by city officials and employees. 

Face-scanning technology is nothing new, used in airports, on smartphones and social media, but advocates fear it could become more widely used and infringe on peoples’ rights. 

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“Concerns about loss of privacy and civil rights matters have arisen with the advent of facial recognition technology,” the order read in the agenda for Monday night’s meeting. 

The proposal is sponsored by Councilors Pious Ali and Brian Batson. 

If passed, Portland would follow what only a few other cities in the United States have done to prevent city staff from using the technology. 

There would be “no exceptions.” The ban would include the city’s law enforcement officers as well.

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The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office currently uses facial recognition technology to help identify criminals by using an app that allows deputies to take a picture of an individual that is then run through a central database. 

Councilors will be voting on the issue at Monday night’s meeting that starts at 5:30 p.m. 

They will also be voting on capacity and goals for a new homeless shelter in the city and expanding ranked-choice voting to council and school board elections. 

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