Privacy and civil liberties advocates applauded a pair of Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday as they prepared to introduce legislation to protect public housing residents from the rise of facial recognition surveillance.
In a letter sent to their fellow members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) invited co-sponsors for the No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act, which would stop public housing complexes which accept funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from installing facial recognition tools.
“The ability to enter your home should not be conditioned on the surrender of your biometric data, particularly when the landlord’s collection, storage, and use of such data is untested and unregulated.”
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Tlaib and Clarke cited strong evidence that facial recognition software disproportionately misidentifies women, transgender people, and people of color and could subject public housing residents to unlawful arrests as well as violating their privacy.
“The policing and criminalization of poverty is already an ugly reality for many people living in these communities,” the congresswomen wrote. “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.”
Fight for the Future, which launched a campaign earlier this month demanding a federal ban on government use of facial recognition surveillance and warning the technology “enables automated and ubiquitous monitoring of an entire population,” praised Tlaib and Clarke’s proposed legislation.
“Facial recognition surveillance should be banned everywhere, but keeping it out of public housing is an excellent start,” said Evan Greer, the group’s deputy director. “If public housing units become a panopticon of automated face scanning and monitoring, it will mean more people in prison, more police abuse, and more families torn apart. Surveillance of poor communities isn’t about safety, it’s about social control.”
Jamaal Bowman, who is running for U.S. Congress in the Bronx and who serves many marginalized families as a middle school principal, also applauded the proposal.
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