Fight for the Future welcomes legislation to ban facial recognition surveillance in public housing

Posted July 23, 2019, 3:18 PM

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 23, 2019
Contact: Evan Greer, press@fightforthefuture.org, 508-368-3026 

UPDATE: Politico reports that this bill has now been introduced as of Thursday, July 25. 

CNET is reporting that Reps Yvette Clark (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) are planning to introduce a bill this week that would ban the use of facial recognition and other biometric surveillance technology in public housing units that receive federal funding from HUD.

Fight for the Future, a leading digital rights group that has called for a complete Federal ban on government use of facial recognition surveillance, welcomes this legislation, reportedly titled the “No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act.” 

“Facial recognition surveillance should be banned everywhere, but keeping it out of public housing is an excellent start,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future (pronouns: she/her), “This type of invasive surveillance technology is often tested on, and disproportionately used to target poor people and people of color. If public housing units become a panopticon of automated face scanning and monitoring, it will mean more people in prison, more police abuse, and more families torn apart. Surveillance of poor communities isn’t about safety, it’s about social control. Everyone deserves liberty and privacy in their own homes –– no one should have to choose between homelessness and losing their basic rights.”

The new bill comes on the heels of growing backlash to facial recognition surveillance that has been spreading across the country. Last week Fight for the Future released an interactive map showing where in the US facial recognition surveillance is being used, and also where there are local and state efforts to ban it. San Francisco, Somerville, MA, and Oakland, CA, recently became the first cities in the country to ban the technology. Berkeley is also considering a ban, and bills to halt current use of the tech are moving in the Massachusetts and Michigan legislatures. In Congress, there is growing bipartisan agreement to address the issue, but it could easily stall under pressure from law enforcement and big tech.

Fight for the Future opposes attempts by the tech industry and law enforcement to pressure Congress to pass an industry-friendly “regulatory framework” for facial recognition that would allow this dangerous technology to spread quickly with minimal restrictions intended to assuage public opposition. But we support narrower efforts to ban or restrict specifically egregious uses of this surveillance. For more on our position, read our op-ed in Buzzfeed News: “Don’t regulate facial recognition. Ban it.”

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