Police in Multnomah County quietly suspended a new data mining program this week after a local newspaper began questioning its legality. For the last several weeks, police have issued ID-scanning devices to clubs and bars all throughout Portland’s Old Town neighborhood. The scanners not only captured customers’ personal data, including names and photos, but uploaded all the information to a police database. After receiving a three-year alcohol abuse reduction grant in 2011, Multnomah County awarded the nonprofit “Lines for Life” $60,000 to obtain the police-run scanners for multiple drinking establishments. Despite Oregon law placing strict limits on storing and sharing information from ID scanners specifically, police were persistent in getting local bars to comply with the program. “We tried to say ‘no’ at the very beginning, and police strongly encouraged that we should do it,” club manager Mike Reed told the Willamette Week. “We don’t want to track people’s every move. We considered that a possible issue.” According to Reed, police not only encouraged the program, but continually reassured club owners that the practice was completely legal. “To our understanding, we’re doing everything within the law,” Reed said. “Police were definitely the big promoter of the scanners.” The city of Portland denied any knowledge of the ID scanner law when confronted by the Willamette Week, but assured the incident was the result of a simple mistake. “We‘re glad when someone brings this up. We want to do what’s best to protect public safety and protect people’s rights,” Multnomah County spokesman David Austin said. Incredibly, police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson denied any possibility of wrongdoing by Portland officers, even going as far as claiming bar owners, not police, would be to blame for any broken laws. More
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