Baltimore’s Facial Recognition Ban Is the Most Restrictive in Nation—Shockingly Out of Line With Practical Reality, Says ITIF

May 26, 2021

WASHINGTON—In response to the Baltimore City Council voting today to approve an ordinance that would significantly restrict commercial use of facial recognition, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) released the following statement from ITIF Vice President Daniel Castro:

Some people have expressed concerns about law enforcement use of facial recognition, but Baltimore’s ordinance goes much further than that. It creates the most restrictive facial recognition ban in the nation, including most commercial uses of the technology.

The ordinance has a few carve-outs that would allow facial recognition for things like unlocking a mobile device. But it would limit nearly every other use of the technology—preventing banks from verifying customers, hotels from recognizing their guests, and retailers from automating checkouts.

This would have serious implications for personal uses of the technology, including helping people with disabilities such as blindness, memory loss, or prosopagnosia so they can recognize others. It would also make it more difficult for businesses to use remote identity verification services to expedite hiring—which will slow down hiring at a time when many Americans are struggling to get back to work.

The ordinance is shockingly out of line with the current state of facial recognition technology and its growing adoption in many sectors of the economy, making Baltimore a city openly hostile to technological innovation.