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Another hyper-focused biometric privacy law: NYC Council approves tenants’ data law

Another hyper-focused biometric privacy law: NYC Council approves tenants’ data law

When the New York City Council last month agreed to regulate biometric and other tenant data, some celebrated while others chafed.

But the bigger issue is the confusing privacy hodgepodge lawmakers are creating.

Council members passed the Tenant Data Privacy Act April 29 to protect the privacy of tenants who live in buildings that are accessed by keyless systems, including biometrics systems.

If signed by the mayor, beginning June 21, landlords would face restrictions on what and how they collect and use data from smart access systems. Only specific information could be gathered: biometrics, name, apartment number, contact preference, passcodes and identifiers related to keyless hardware and lease information.

Data prohibited from being collected would include use of internet service and makes it illegal for landlords to be given detailed information on the use of gas and electricity.

The legislation gives tenants a limited private right of actions. Landlords (or anybody acting for the landlord) selling data protected by the act can be sued.

It is a useful tool for consumers, but it is just another highly targeted U.S. privacy law that requires their vigilance about landlord actions and knowledge about the ever-changing policies of the many jurisdictions in which people live.

For businesses, the act can help avoid tenant complaints and legal actions. But they also now have another targeted regulation that is not guaranteed to dovetail with any other government policies.

The situation is more complex for housing providers with properties beyond the five boroughs of New York City. State legislators have their own crazy quilt of regulations.

Indeed, a 2020 article in the Indiana Law Review reports that there are more than 20 federal laws protecting personal data “in varied and inconsistent ways.” The best known is HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

New York is also considering a separate bill which would regulate the use of biometrics in the private sector.

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