Proposed Federal Legislation Would Ban Biometric Surveillance in Public Housing

“It’s aimed primarily at protecting tenants’ privacy, and defending them against potential over-policing.”

Biometrics News: Proposed Federal Legislation Would Ban Biometric Surveillance in Public Housing

A trio of Congresswomen have announced a new piece of legislation aimed at banning the use of biometric recognition in most public and assisted housing units funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Billed “The No Biometric Barriers Housing Act of 2019”, the legislation was crafted by US Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts), and Yvette D. Clarke (D-New York). It’s aimed primarily at protecting tenants’ privacy, and defending them against potential over-policing.

While the bill restricts the use of biometric surveillance broadly, it arrives at a time of heightened concern about facial recognition in particular, with multiple municipalities having recently moved to restrict the use of such technology, including an outright ban pertaining to public spaces in Massachusetts.

“Vulnerable communities are constantly being policed, profiled, and punished, and facial recognition technology will only make it worse,” asserted Congresswoman Pressley in a statement announcing the legislation.

Congresswomen Clarke and Tlaib were also motivated by developments in the communities they represent, with tenants of Atlantic Towers in Brownsville, New York, raising alarms about their landlord’s use of the technology, and the Detroit Police Department using facial recognition as part of a sweeping surveillance program called Project Green Light.

In her own commentary on the proposed legislation, Congresswoman Tlaib highlighted concerns about disparities in how biometric technologies perform across different demographic groups. “We’ve heard from privacy experts, researchers who study facial recognition technology and community members who have well-founded concerns about the implementation of this technology and its implications for racial justice,” she said, adding later, “As representatives, we have a duty to protect our residents and are doing so with the No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act of 2019.”

Sources: U.S. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Detroit Metro Times

July 26, 2019 – by Alex Perala