New York State

Clarke moves to ban facial recognition in public housing

The No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act builds on growing suspicion of technology like facial recognition and its flaws.

Facial recognition technology.

Facial recognition technology. Shutterstock

The backlash to facial recognition technology in residential buildings has reached the halls of Congress, where U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, along with Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, have introduced a bill to ban usage of facial recognition and other biometric technology in federally assisted public housing. 

The bill, dubbed the No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act, builds on growing suspicion of technology like facial recognition and its flaws – notably, its problems with recognizing the faces of women and people of color. This debate has cropped up in Clarke’s district in Brooklyn, in the rent-stabilized Atlantic Plaza Towers Complex, where property managers want to install facial recognition technology at entrances. Much like in public housing complexes, many tenants are people of color who fear that the technology poses a risk. Owners of the complex say no data would be shared with outside parties.

While New York’s latest debate on facial recognition has been centered around housing, other municipalities have taken broad action to regulate its use. In May, San Francisco banned the use of facial recognition software by police and other agencies. Shortly after, Somerville, Massachusetts and Oakland became the second and third U.S. cities to ban its usage by city departments like police.

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