Bill Would Ban Facial Recognition in Public Housing


The proposal would also direct the Housing and Urban Development Department to conduct a comprehensive report on how the tech is used, why and its impact on tenants. 

Legislation introduced in the House Wednesday would prohibit the usage of facial recognition and biometric technologies in public and assisted housing units funded under the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Introduced by Reps Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y. and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., the No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act of 2021 would ban the use of biometric tech most federally funded public housing. More than two million Americans live in public housing nationwide.

“Facial recognition technology consistently misidentifies women and people of color and only exacerbates the constant surveillance and criminalization that the most marginalized already face,” Pressley said in a statement. “This much-needed bill will ban the use of facial recognition and other biometric technologies in HUD-funded properties and will help protect the civil rights and liberties of tenants throughout our country.”

Beyond banning the use of facial recognition technology in housing units that receive federal funding, the bill also requires HUD to submit a comprehensive research report to Congress. The report must include any known use of facial recognition technologies in public housing units; the tech’s impact on tenants; the purposes for installing such tech in housing units; demographic information of impacted tenants, and the impact of emerging technologies on vulnerable communities in public housing.

The legislation was introduced previously in the House in July 2019. However, privacy-related legislation is gaining steam in the new Congress. The No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act follows bicameral legislation introduced in June that would stop the federal government from using biometric technology.

“Biometric technologies like facial recognition have been found to be inaccurate, disproportionately target women and people of color, and violate basic privacy protections,” Tlaib said in a statement.