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Portland City Council unanimously passes surveillance technologies policy 

News Article
Willamette River looking north from downtown
In a unanimous vote on Feb. 1, 2023, Portland City Council passed a resolution to create a citywide inventory of surveillance technologies and implement privacy impact assessments in procurement processes.
Published

The new policy directs BPS’s Smart City PDX program to collaborate with the Office of Equity and Human Rights (OEHR) and the Bureau of Technology Services (BTS) to implement these directives. 

View the policy documents:

Surveillance technologies defined

Surveillance technologies monitor and track behavior, activities, or information from an  individual or group for the purpose of gathering information, influencing, managing, or providing direction. 

Surveillance technologies include automated license plate readers, body-worn cameras, security cameras, gunshot detectors, red light cameras, face recognition, and geolocations services. But the emergence of advanced information technologies, like artificial intelligence, multiplies the impacts of the use of these technologies and, in most of the cases, City bureaus do not have enough information about how they or vendors use them. 

The Smart City PDX program has a core value to equitably center the use of technology on the needs of people and the community, ensuring effective impacts on those who need it most.  

This policy will create more transparency and a due process to understand these impacts, both positive and negative, before the City uses surveillance technologies.

View the City Council session

Next steps

The Smart City team is currently coordinating with OEHR and BTS to lay out a plan of action, including the information to be included in the citywide inventory of surveillance technologies.  

In addition to the inventory, BPS will work with the procurement team and BTS to integrate privacy impact assessments into the existing procurement process. These reports will be made available to the public for better transparency and accountability. 

This effort will include public events to co-design some aspects of the inventory and learn more about what communities and neighborhoods want to understand about technologies in the public realm. These events may be happening in the Spring of this year. Please visit the Smart City PDX page for updates.  

To learn more about this work, download the Smart City PDX zine on Digital Justice, Digital Rights, and Surveillance technologies, available in English and Spanish:

You may also send an email to smartcitypdx@portlandoregon.gov.  

Contact

Julian Hanlon-Austin

Senior Communications Strategist, Planning & Sustainability