City Council votes to provide more surveillance tech transparency in Portland

Portland Ears. (KPTV) – An effort to help Portlanders understand how and where city surveillance technology is being used will be presented to City Council on Wednesday. City Council will hear public testimony and vote on the resolution.

Supporters of the proposed resolution say the policy would create transparency and procedures for understanding surveillance across the city.

In Portland, like many other large cities, surveillance technology has become part of everyday life.

“Includes cameras, traffic cameras, automated license plate readers, etc. that create a database of specific vehicle movements,” said Fight for the Future spokeswoman Lia Holland.

During a two-year public engagement process, hundreds of Portlanders participated and helped inform the surveillance technology ordinance proposed to the city council Wednesday, the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability said.

A coalition of dozens of organizations backing the resolution said it was a step in the right direction for greater transparency when it comes to city surveillance.

“The ordinance proposes an inventory of all the surveillance technology the city is using. We don’t have one right now. It doesn’t list all the technology that the city of Portland is using,” Holland said.

And said it would also help the public understand where the data ends up.

“Because we don’t have insight into what Portland is currently doing with the data, we don’t know if the data was sold to third-party data brokers,” Holland said.

And said this will enable Smart City PDX to help the city evaluate new technologies underway in a more responsible manner.

“Start developing a framework for the fairness and procurement process for new surveillance technology,” Holland said.

The ACLU of Oregon said the resolution was critical to developing trust between residents and the city.

“Nobody wants to walk around the city of Portland feeling like Big Brother is lurking on their shoulders all the time,” Holland said.

The city said the public is invited to speak Wednesday via Zoom or in person at City Hall.Meeting starts at 2pm

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