Rep. Tlaib introduces bill to ban facial recognition technology from public housing

Jul 25, 2019 at 11:29 am
click to enlarge Rep. Tlaib introduces bill to ban facial recognition technology from public housing

Residents who live in federally funded housing units would not be subjected to facial recognition technology under a bill introduced Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, teamed up with two other congresswomen to introduce the No Biometric Barriers Act of 2019, which wold ban the technology at housing units funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Detroit has one of the nation's most pervasive surveillance systems, which includes $1 million face-scanning software that enables police to search a database of face photos from mug shots, driver's licenses, and other sources.

The bill would impact Detroit because some of the high-definition cameras, which are part of the city's controversial Project Green Light, are erected at federally funded housing complexes.

Michigan legislators also are considering banning the technology because an increasing number of studies are showing it's error-prone and most inaccurate on people with darker skin.

“We’ve heard from privacy experts, researchers who study facial recognition technology, and community members who have well-founded concerns about the implementation of this technology and its implications for racial justice," Tlaib said. "We cannot allow residents of HUD-funded properties to be criminalized and marginalized with the use of biometric products like facial recognition technology. We must be centered on working to provide permanent, safe, and affordable housing to every resident — and unfortunately, this technology does not do that. As representatives, we have a duty to protect our residents and are doing so with the No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act of 2019.”

With no public input, Detroit police have been using the technology for nearly two years and still don't have a policy approved by the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners. Some members of the commission are opposed to the technology because of the racial biases.

Neither Chief James Craig nor Mayor Mike Duggan would comment for this story.

The other congresswomen who introduced the legislation are Reps. Yvette D. Clarke, D-N.Y., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.

“Vulnerable communities are constantly being policed, profiled, and punished, and facial recognition technology will only make it worse," Pressley said. "Program biases misidentify women and people of color, and yet the technology continues to go unregulated. Our bill, the No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act of 2019, will ban the use of facial recognition and other biometric technologies in HUD-funded properties — protecting the civil rights and civil liberties of tenants throughout the country.”

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