A federal judge in Oregon has dismissed a federal lawsuit brought by the state’s human resources agency, the Oregon Administrative Rules Enforcement Office, claiming the state violated federal rules on the use of facial recognition technology.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Brian Jones in Portland Monday did not address whether the agency could have been required to take additional steps to ensure its employees’ privacy rights were not violated by the facial recognition system, which the agency said it would not use for any of its work.
The case, known as OAR, stemmed from a 2013 audit by the Oregon Privacy Coalition, which examined the state human resources policies and practices.
The audit found that the agency did not establish procedures to ensure employees’ information was kept private and could not provide privacy protections to its employees.
In a filing Monday, the advocacy group said the federal court’s ruling in the case, “does not mean that the federal government will not enforce federal privacy laws in Oregon.
The decision to hold the state to account is an important first step in ensuring that Oregon’s privacy policies are in compliance with federal privacy standards and are enforced.”
The lawsuit said OAR “should have acted immediately” and the agency should have required employees to provide their fingerprints and face-recognition data to the agency for use in the facial-recognizing technology, but it failed to do so.
The lawsuit alleged that OAR failed to conduct a “complete investigation” into the issue and failed to inform the employees about their rights.
The ACLU said the ruling was a significant victory for employees and the rights of Oregonians.
“We are pleased that the judge has recognized that the state acted properly in this matter,” said ACLU of Oregon executive director Tom Loebsack.
“But, as this case shows, federal privacy rules can be enforced by agencies in other states, not just Oregon.
OAR should be commended for standing up for privacy and standing up against the unconstitutional practice of facial-based facial recognition.”