NYC seeks to curb facial recognition technology in homes and businesses

A white camera juts out from the side of a building, behind it is a row of apartment building windows.New
legislation would regulate landlords and businesses using facial
recognition software and other biometric data systems. | Ramin
Talaie/Getty Images

One bill would give tenants an out from the invasive
technology

A new City Council bill would give residents an out to invasive
facial recognition technology and other biometric data collection
that landlords are increasingly turning to as locks and security
systems.

The
KEYS (keep entry to your home surveillance-free) Act
,
introduced by Brooklyn Councilmember Brad Lander, seeks to force
landlords to provide tenants with traditional metal keys to enter
their buildings and apartments. The measure would prevent building
owners from mandating tenants use facial recognition, biometric
scanning, or any other smart-key technology to access their
homes.

“No one should be required to have their movements tracked
just to enter their own home, but that is the reality that we are
starting to face,” Lander said at a Monday Council oversight
hearing on regulating such technology in residential and commercial
properties.

Two other bills discussed Monday would further regulate the use
of facial recognition and biometric software by landlords and
businesses. One measure would require building owners who use
biometric technology to register with the city, and another would
require businesses to notify customers if they are collecting their
biometric data, such as facial and iris scans or fingerprints.

The bills come amid a wave of public and legislative pushback to
facial recognition technology that studies have show has a
higher error rate
for accurately identifying people of color
and women. In New York City, the legislation is a culmination of
mounting privacy and civil liberty concerns. Lander’s bill was,
in part, galvanized by rent-stabilized tenants at the Atlantic
Plaza Towers in Brownsville where private landlord Nelson
Management Group aims to install a facial recognition security
system in the complex.

Residents and local elected officials were
quick to rail against the system
. In May, 134 tenants at the
complex
filed a challenge
to the state’s Homes and Community Renewal
department, urging the agency block the keyless system on privacy
and ethical grounds. Such technology is not unprecedented in New
York City, but the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and
Development (HPD) does not keep track of buildings that use
biometric data collection, and therefor, has no data on how
pervasive the technology already is in the five boroughs.

The Legal Services NYC’s Tenant Rights Coalition, which is
representing the Atlantic Plaza Towers tenants, lauded the KEYS Act
but says that regulators must go further.

“We are glad our City Council is paying attention to the use
of facial recognition entry systems in residential spaces, but
tenants need additional protections from the many risks involved in
biometrics data collection,” said Samar Katnani, an attorney with
Legal Services. “The tenants we work with are calling for a ban
on facial recognition technology in residential spaces.”

Lander’s bill does not prevent landlords from using facial
recognition, though the Brooklyn Councilmember said he would be
open to an outright ban on the technology.

Tenants who have had little choice but to endure the technology
at one Two Bridges affordable housing complex say the system is
prone to bugs and is unreliable.

“Many tenants have complained that the technology does not
work,” said Christina Zhang, who co-chairs the Knickerbocker
Village tenant’s association. “You’re doing this dance to get
the camera to recognize you.”

The KEYS Act, Lander says, would give tenants “a right to
escape” facial recognition and the collection of other biometric
data. This is a sentiment HPD supports “until electronic methods
of entry can be proven to not pose safety or privacy concerns,”
according to Sarah Mallory, the executive director of government
affairs for HPD.

That technology, Mallory stressed at Monday’s hearing, has the
potential to be used by landlords to electronically track the
movements of residents as a means to target tenants for
harassment.

Relying entirely on electric locking mechanisms—whether they
collect biometric data or not—also threatens to lock residents in
or out of their homes if buildings lose power. That’s what
happened to one elderly tenant in Hell’s Kitchen when they were
unable to use a smartphone to unlock their door using the Latch
lock and app installed by the building’s landlord. The tenant,
along with neighbors,
won the right to physical keys in May
after suing the
landlord.

Such concerns have prompted state lawmakers to introduce a bill
that would ban the use of facial recognition technology, and in
Congress, a Brooklyn representative has sought to
ban the use of biometric scanning technology
in all
federally-funded public housing.

Facial recognition technology is already widely used by law
enforcement agencies, including the NYPD. In
San Francisco
,
Oakland
, and
Somerville, Massachusetts
legislators have banned city
agencies, including law enforcement and public housing, from using
such technology. Lawmakers in cities across the country are
considering similar moves.

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
NYC seeks to curb facial recognition technology in homes and businesses