New bill could ban facial recognition in public housing

The No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act is expected to be introduced this week.

The bill would prohibit the use of facial recognition technology in public housing units that receive funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). As well as require the department to submit a report detailing the impact of facial recognition on public housing units and their tenants. 

Proposed by Reps. Yvette Clarke, a Democrat from New York, Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat from Massachusett; and Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan, the bill would be the first federal legislation to regulate what technology landlords can impose on tenants. 

The proposed bills follows after tenants in Brooklyn filed a legal opposition to their landlord’s application to install a facial recognition entry system. The tenants argued that the use of facial recognition technology was an excessive invasion of privacy. 

Facial recognition has drawn scrutiny from lawmakers and advocacy groups about privacy concerns, false positives and its racial bias. In May, San Francisco became the first U.S city to ban the use of facial recognition technology by government agencies, followed by Somerville Massachusetts. 

In a letter by Congresswoman Clarke, it wrote:

“Surveillance technology is often used to track and control vulnerable communities, particularly communities of color. The installation of biometric technologies on public housing properties poses an acute risk to those already on the margins.”

Clarke concluded that “public housing exists to provide shelter for our constituents, not another opportunity to be wrongly profiled. We simply cannot allow untested and biased technologies to undermine tenants’ civil liberties or their quality of life.”

Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, a digital civil rights group commented:

“Facial recognition surveillance should be banned everywhere, but keeping it out of public housing is an excellent start.”

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