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King County Council votes to ban use of facial recognition technology

The ordinance also bans county offices from entering into an agreement with third parties or obtaining facial recognition information.

KING COUNTY, Wash. — The King County Council voted unanimously Tuesday to ban the use of facial recognition technology by administrative offices, including the sheriff's office.

The approved ordinance, approved 9-0 during Tuesday's council meeting, prohibits the use of facial recognition software, except to comply with the National Child Search Assistance Act.

A spokesperson for the King County Sheriff’s Office previously said they do not use facial recognition technology and support the measure.

A long list of nonprofits, including the ACLU, sent a letter to the council urging them to pass the ban.

The ban does not impact King County offices and not cities within the county.

The Seattle Police Department does not use facial recognition tools, a spokesperson previously told KING 5.

Of the concerns over the technology, accuracy, demographic biases, and encroachment on civil liberties are major ones.

"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 King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the legislation’s primary sponsor. "The use or misuse of these technologies has potentially devastating consequences which the new ordinance will help to prevent. 

"I am very appreciative that my colleagues unanimously supported my legislation today banning its use in King County government agencies, and appreciate the overwhelming community support we’ve had. Our vote today makes King County the first county in the nation to pass this type of ban."