By Tim Cushing
Another facial recognition ban has been passed, bringing a bit more enforceable privacy to the eastern side of the nation. Most of the ban action to date has been on the West Coast, with small pockets of resistance popping up elsewhere. Well, mainly just Massachusetts. The latest ban passed during the most recent election, gives Portland, Maine residents the freedom to live their lives with a little less panopticon.
In Maine, voters in the state’s largest city recently enacted one of the toughest facial recognition bans in the country in the Nov. 3 elections, outlawing both use of the technology by local police and the city government.
The ban that passed during this referendum is an improvement over the original proposal. This version makes it enforceable. There are consequences for violating that go beyond the expected fines and fees that just shift tax dollars from one government agency to another.
The new law allows citizens to sue the city for illegal facial recognition surveillance by the city police or government. Citizens could get up to $1,000 per violation plus legal fees, if they prevail in court. Municipal employees can be fired for violating the ban.
Of course, these fines and fees just refund some tax dollars to taxpayers. But this is better than allowing the city to collect the fines, which isn’t much of a deterrent to government agencies which can expect to see some of their paid fines dumped back into their pockets with the next budget approval.
The firing threat may be even more effective than giving taxpayers some of their taxes back. When a job’s on the line, government employees are far less likely to abuse their power.
This ban was originally passed by the city council three months ahead of the election. But that ban did not include the possible firing of violators. It was the city’s residents who insisted on this additional accountability measure. The ban goes into effect next year and cannot be removed for the next five years. That’s five years of surveillance creep mitigation. The people have spoken. And what they’re saying more and more frequently is they don’t want their lives and bodies to be little more than data points for law enforcement surveillance programs.