Democratic lawmakers call for HUD review of facial recognition in federal housing

A group of Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday asked the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to review the use of facial recognition in federally assisted housing amid concerns the technology amplifies existing biases.

The lawmakers cited reports of public and federal housing administrators installing facial recognition technology, which scans faces for the purposes of identifying individuals, in buildings.

“[HUD] is responsible for creating and ensuring discrimination-free practices in all communities,” the Democratic lawmakers, including Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), wrote in a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

“However, as numerous civil rights experts have pointed out, when public housing and federally assisted property owners install facial recognition security camera systems, they could be used to enable invasive, unnecessary and harmful government surveillance of their residents. Those who cannot afford more do not deserve less in basic privacy and protections. They should not have to compromise their civil rights and liberties nor accept the condition of indiscriminate, sweeping government surveillance to find an affordable place to live.” 

Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) also signed onto the letter.

The demand for HUD to review the technology comes amid increasing scrutiny of facial recognition.

Civil rights groups have expressed concerns that the technology expands unwarranted surveillance and highlighted studies that have found certain products misidentify women and people of color at higher rates.

There is currently no federal law dictating when, how, where or why facial recognition technology can be used.

Booker introduced legislation last month banning the use of facial recognition technology in public housing, mirroring a bill introduced by Clarke, Pressley and Tlaib in the House.

The No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act would block the technology from being installed in any housing units that receive funding from HUD.

Both bills have been referred to committee.

Tags Ayanna Pressley Ben Carson Cory Booker Ed Markey facial recognition Federal housing assistance HUD Rashida Tlaib Ron Wyden Sherrod Brown Yvette Clarke
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