House lawmakers to introduce bill banning facial recognition tech in public housing

House lawmakers to introduce bill banning facial recognition tech in public housing
© Greg Nash

A group of House lawmakers this week will introduce a bill banning facial recognition technology from public housing, the first federal proposal of its kind.

Reps. Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkeThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - Democrats to release articles of impeachment today Lawmakers visit African migrants at US-Mexico border Democratic lawmaker introduces bill to tackle online terrorist activity MORE (D-N.Y.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyIlhan Omar responds to 'Conservative Squad': 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery' Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire Booker unveils legislation for federal bill to ban discrimination against natural hair MORE (D-Mass.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibIlhan Omar responds to 'Conservative Squad': 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery' House passes bill that would give legal status to thousands of undocumented farmworkers Biden narrowly ahead in Iowa as Sanders surges, Warren drops: poll MORE (D-Mich.) are planning to introduce the bill by the end of this week, a source familiar with the legislation told The Hill.

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The No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act would prevent facial recognition technology from being installed in housing units that receive funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

It would also require HUD to submit a report to Congress about how facial recognition technology is "impacting tenants, how it’s impacting vulnerable communities, what it means, why housing units are using it, so then they can determine really the best course of action here."

The legislation was first reported by CNet.

The bill emerges as the House ramps up its scrutiny of the sensitive technology, which scans people's faces for the purposes of identifying them, over the past several months. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have pledged they will work up legislation that would limit, or even impose a temporary ban, on facial recognition technology.

The technology's bipartisan critics have raised concerns that it is not ready for mainstream rollout, pointing to studies that have found certain products misrecognize women and people of color at higher rates. And they say it raises immense privacy concerns as it offers the ability for law enforcement to police people at nearly all points.

Tlaib and Pressley are members of the House Oversight Committee, which has held many of the highest-profile facial recognition technology hearings this year with a number of tech experts and government officials. Clarke is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, which held its own hearing on the issue earlier this month.

The source close to the legislation said Clarke has heard from constituents who feel facial recognition technology in public housing units feels like a "violation."

"There's housing units that are installing, or proposing to install, this technology, and people are going home and feeling like they’re being subjected to this facial recognition technology in [their] own home," they said.

Tenants in Brooklyn earlier this year filed legal opposition to their landlord's attempts to install a facial recognition entry system in their building. They raised concerns about their landlord gaining "unfettered control over their biometric data," as well as the possibility that the technology would misrecognize minority residents, leaving them locked out of their home.

The bill has garnered support from the NAACP and the National Housing Law Project, as well as digital rights group Fight for the Future.

It has also already drawn blowback from the tech industry. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) in a statement touted the potential benefits of installing facial recognition software in home surveillance cameras. ITIF receives significant funding from top tech companies.

"Banning facial recognition technology in public housing would be misguided," ITIF's vice president Daniel Castro saiad. "Smart home technology offers residents convenience and safety and helps landlords keep down costs."

There is another bill that would curtail facial recognition technology in the Senate. Sens. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzSenate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Advocates hopeful dueling privacy bills can bridge partisan divide MORE (D-Hawaii) and Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntOn The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst on trade deal Republicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-Mo.) earlier this year introduced a bill to regulate the commercial use of facial recognition technology.

Outside groups have been pushing Congress to take action against the technology as cities in the U.S. have started banning facial recognition software altogether.