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Renewed attempt to ban biometric monitoring in public housing

Renewed attempt to ban biometric monitoring in public housing

Unhappy with the prospect of turning federally subsidized housing into biometric fishbowls occupied by indigent, elderly and disabled citizens, U.S. representatives have proposed banning sensors on the properties.

The bill is sponsored by Democratic Representatives Yvette Clarke of New York, Rashid Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Legislation to ban installation of face and other biometrics in public housing had been pushed in July 2019, but it failed, according to Nextgov.

The new bill would prohibit the owner of certain federally assisted rental unit from using or allowing anyone else to use on-site or remote biometrics systems, including facial recognition setups. It would cover the interior of a unit and any building or grounds that includes the unit.

Qualifying units fall under so-called section 8 and similar federal assistance programs.

At the same time, the sponsors want a report by the Housing and Urban Development department on how and why the technology has been in public housing.

Not incidentally, they would like to know the demographics of those subjected to biometric monitoring and how it may have affected the residents. The concern is if one demographic group of residents is monitored more often than others.

The federal effort is one of the few such attempts to regulate biometric systems in public housing, (Some states have looked at biometrics used in schools.) but it has not gone unnoticed as an issue.

The Tennessee Lookout, an advocacy journalism outlet, noted earlier this year that Nashville leaders in 2017 passed legislation limiting the use of biometric systems by the city. Judged a half-measure, the publication noted the many agencies and authorities in and near the city that are exempted from the law, including the region’s housing agency.

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