t

King County Council approves facial recognition technology ban

Software ban applies to King County Sheriff’s Office

The King County Council unanimously passed a groundbreaking proposal to ban government use of facial recognition software.

The council approved the measure 9-0 on Tuesday, June 1. King County, home to 2.3 million people in and around Seattle, becomes the first county and one of the largest jurisdictions in the United States to pass such a ban.

The legislation, prime sponsored by Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, aims to protect our residents’ civil liberties and freedom from government surveillance and demographic biases by prohibiting the use of such software, including by the King County Sheriff’s Office, except to comply with the National Child Search Assistance Act.

“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 County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles. “The use or misuse of these technologies has potentially devastating consequences which the new ordinance will help to prevent.”

Studies have found that facial recognition software is often far more likely to misidentify Black or Asian faces, especially Black women, according to a county council news release.

“The use of this technology is invasive, intrusive, racially biased and full of risks to fundamental civil liberties,” said Councilmember Dave Upthegrove. “I am proud to sponsor this ban which is supported by local community groups, public defenders, immigrants’ rights advocates, racial justice organizations, workers’ rights groups, privacy advocates, and technologists.”

“Today’s unanimous vote to adopt a facial recognition ban is a huge win for the residents of King County and an important step forward in the effort to stop government use of this harmful and racist technology,” said Jennifer Lee, ACLU Washington. “With this vote, King County joins a growing number of local jurisdictions across the nation that have approved similar restrictions. Now it’s time for a federal ban on government use of facial recognition to ensure that no one’s civil liberties and civil rights are violated by a pervasive and often inaccurate technology that disproportionately misidentifies people of color and heightens the risk of surveillance and deadly encounters with law enforcement in already marginalized and over-policed communities.”




In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bellevuereporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bellevuereporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Northwest

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterburg (File Photo)
King County Prosecuting Attorney vows to protect reproductive freedom

Dan Satterberg joins over 80 prosecutors from around the country in their pledge.

Fedor Osipov, 15, flips into Steel Lake in Federal Way during last year's heatwave on June 28, 2021. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Heatwave expected to hit King County

Temperatures will likely reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, June 26, and Monday, June 27.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII: Examining Auburn police officer’s grim tattoos

Episode 5 in special podcast series that explores Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

t
Sound Transit Board approves Julie Timm as new CEO at $375,000 per year

She replaces Peter Rogoff who left in May after board voted to replace him

t
Statewide task force to tackle organized retail crime rings

Group brings law enforcement, prosecutors, retailers together to combat growing problem

Photo courtesy of King County.
Officials urge caution when swimming this summer

Cold spring temperatures and larger than normal snowpack have created dangerous conditions

A semiautomatic handgun with a safety cable lock that prevents loading ammunition. (Sound Publishing file photo)
Large-capacity ammo magazine sales ban starts soon in Washington

Starting July 1, a 10-round capacity becomes the limit for sales. Meanwhile, “there is a rush on magazine purchasing.”

t
Oak Harbor man arrested on $1 million bail for alleged hate crime

Yelled threat at Whidbey Island woman; reportedly posted online comments about killing gay people

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII (Episode 4): Foster mom wants accountability in Auburn cop’s upcoming murder trial

Special podcast series explores Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

Sound Publishing archives
Cannabis DUI challenge rejected by state Supreme Court

Everett man argued the law must be tossed because legal limit for THC is not supported by science.

Tsr
No more stolen sisters: How WA is responding to missing and murdered Indigenous people

Across the state, 126 Indigenous people remain missing, with 31 having gone missing in King County.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII (Episode 3): Behind the decision to charge a police officer with murder | King County Local Dive

Special podcast series explores Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.