December 18, 2019

Harris, Colleagues Demand HUD Review Facial Recognition Technology Use in Federally Assisted Housing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Edward Markey (D-MA), along with U.S. Representatives Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), on Wednesday called on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to review policies regarding the use of facial recognition technologies in federally assisted housing. 

In a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson, the legislators raised concern that the expansion of facial recognition technology in federally assisted housing properties poses risks to marginalized communities, including by opening the door to unchecked government surveillance that could threaten civil rights.

“[HUD] is responsible for creating and ensuring discrimination-free practices in all communities,” the legislators wrote. “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.” 

The letter also mentions that experts have noted inaccuracies in facial recognition technology that disproportionately affect vulnerable communities, specifically women, transgender individuals, and people of color.

The legislators continued, “These false and biased judgments can exacerbate the vulnerabilities that marginalized groups already face in life, such as the over criminalization of people of color and transgender individuals. Potential sharing of this data, particularly with law enforcement, further heightens concerns about the risk this technology poses to vulnerable communities.”

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