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King County, Wash., Bans Facial Recognition in Unanimous Vote

The Metropolitan King County Council unanimously voted today to prohibit county departments, including the sheriff's office, from using facial recognition tech. If signed by the county executive, the measure becomes law.

Seattle, King County, Washington
A view of Mt. Rainier with the Seattle skyline in the foreground.
King County, Wash., could become the first U.S. county to ban facial recognition technology after the Metropolitan King County Council's unanimous vote today.

As reported by the Seattle Times, the council adopted a measure to prevent all county departments, including the sheriff's office, from procuring facial recognition tech or using facial recognition information. To become official, the council's measure must be signed by County Executive Dow Constantine.

The measure does make exceptions in two situations. First, a county department may use "facial recognition evidence as long as they don’t produce it themselves or ask for it," according to Seattle Times. Second, facial recognition tech can be utilized if it supports a federal missing children program.

The King County Sheriff’s Office told the Seattle Times the new measure wouldn't negatively impact any of the office's work.

“The sheriff’s office operations will not be hindered by the proposed legislation,” said Tim Meyer, spokesperson for the office, in an email. “This legislation reflects the values of the communities we serve.”

Several cities across the country, including San Francisco and Portland, Ore., have banned facial recognition tech to some extent. King County would be the first county to do so if the measure is signed.

The technology has come under fire for reasons related to racial bias and privacy.