Ban Government use of Facial Recognition in King County

Dear King County Councilmembers,

The undersigned organizations write to urge you to support Ordinance No. 2021-0091 – an
ordinance that would ban government use of facial recognition technology in King County
and protect people’s civil rights and civil liberties. We thank Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-
Welles, Councilmember Rod Dembowski, and Councilmembers Upthegrove for sponsoring this important legislation.

Facial recognition is a privacy-invasive, and racially biased technology that attempts to gives the
government the power to automatically identify, locate, and track people based on images of their
faces. This technology poses unprecedented privacy, civil liberties, and equity concerns. Unlike other
forms of identity verification, facial recognition technology can enable invisible and persistent
government surveillance on a massive scale. Government agencies can use facial recognition to track
individuals’ movements and associations without their knowledge or consent, chilling free speech
and free association, undermining press freedom, and threatening the free exercise of religion.

Facial recognition technology powers systemic racism and injustice, whether or not this technology
operates accurately. However, it is important to recognize that facial recognition technology is
biased and inaccurate, and its use causes disparate impacts and can have life-or-death consequences.
There are now multiple cases in the United States of facial recognition technology implicating Black
men in crimes they did not commit, as in the case of Robert Julian-Borchak Williams, a Black man
who was wrongly arrested and jailed due to a false facial recognition match. Many expert studies
have found facial recognition technology to be less accurate at identifying women, youth, trans and
gender non-confirming people, and people of color, increasing the risk of false matches. A
December 2019 study from the National Institute of Standards and Technology on Face
Recognition Software found that false positives are up to 100 times more likely for Asian and Black
faces when compared to white faces.

We underscore that facial recognition causes disparate impacts when it is incorrect, and it will also
lead to harm even when the results are accurate, as the technology will continue to be deployed
disproportionately to surveil marginalized communities.

There is a growing movement across the United States to ban face surveillance. Cities including
Portland, Boston, and San Francisco have banned government use of facial recognition technology,
recognizing that facial recognition tools not only fuel discriminatory surveillance, but also threaten
everyone’s privacy and civil liberties. Recent state and federal proposals to ban facial recognition
technology have garnered widespread support as legislators and the public have become increasingly
concerned about the harmful effects of face surveillance on our civil rights and democracy.

King County has the opportunity to pass the country’s first county-wide facial recognition ban. King
County can be a leader in protecting people’s civil rights and civil liberties and advancing racial

Please support Ordinance No. 2021-0091. We the undersigned thank you for considering this
pressing issue.


Access Now
American Civil Liberties Union of Washington
API Chaya
Asian Counseling and Referral Service
Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County
Church Council of Greater Seattle
Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence
Coalition for the Rights & Safety of People in the Sex Trade
Coalition of Seattle Indian Americans
Consumer Federation of America
Data for Humanity
Defending Rights & Dissent
DesignIT International aka KnowledgeHouseAfrica
Eastside For All
El Centro de la Raza
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Encode Justice
Faith Action Network
Fight for the Future
Future Ada
Indivisible Eastside
Indivisible Plus Washington
Indivisible Washington's 8th District
InterIm CDA
International Community Health Services
John T. Williams Organizing Committee
La Resistencia
Legal Voice
Libertarian Party of King County
Libertarian Party of Washington State
MAPS-AMEN (American Muslim Empowerment Network)
Media Alliance
National Workrights Institute
Puget Sound Sage
Real Change
Restore The Fourth
Seattle Indivisible
Seattle JACL (Japanese American Citizens League)
Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P)
Transit Riders Union
Wallingford Indivisible
Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance
Washington Fair Trade Coalition
Washington State Indivisible Podcast

Will you endorse?