VICTORY: Bellingham Voters Ban Facial Recognition, Predictive Policing Software

News Release: 
Wednesday, November 10, 2021

BELLINGHAM — Last week, Bellingham voters approved a ban on government use of facial recognition and predictive policing technologies by their city. Initiative 2, which was brought to the ballot by People First Bellingham, won 57 percent of the vote. The people of Bellingham voted to prohibit the city from acquiring or using facial recognition technology or contracting with a third party to use facial recognition technology on the city’s behalf. It also prohibits the retention of unlawfully acquired data, and the unlawful use of that data in court as evidence.

Bellingham is now one of a growing list of jurisdictions, including King County, Washington, Portland, Boston, and New Orleans, which have facial recognition bans. The King County Council unanimously approved a ban in June, and the European Union also recently voted to ban all forms of predictive policing and facial recognition technology.

Jennifer Lee, Technology and Liberty Project Manager for the ACLU of Washington, had this reaction:

"With this exciting victory, Bellingham joins a growing number of cities, states and counties where the people and their representatives have voted to protect privacy and other civil liberties by banning government use of facial recognition technology and predictive policing tools. Facial recognition fuels racial injustice and gives governments, companies, and individuals the power to spy on us wherever we go, enabling the persistent tracking of our faces at protests, political rallies, places of worship, and more -- chilling our democratic rights. The success of Initiative 2 is a huge win for the people of Bellingham. Now it's time for a federal ban on government use of facial recognition and predictive policing tools to protect everyone's civil rights and civil liberties."

People First Bellingham is an all-volunteer coalition made up of individuals and representatives from several organizations who are working together to create material changes that put people over profit.