Senator proposes ban on face recognition in housing
08 November 2019 16:18 GMT

Senator Cory Booker, a presidential candidate, has introduced legislation that would ban facial recognition technology and other biometric tools from federally funded public housing.

The "No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act" is a companion measure to legislation already proposed by House Democrats in July. That bill was introduced by prominent House Democrats Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Yvette Clarke of New York.

In a press release, Booker said he also secured language in the FAA Authorization Act in October 2018 that requires the TSA to report to Congress on methods to eliminate bias based on race, gender and age as the agency begins to deploy facial recognition across the country’s airports.

All of the representatives argue that the use of facial recognition in security and access control systems at public housing buildings could violate tenants’ civil rights.

“Using facial recognition technology in public housing without fully understanding its flaws and privacy implications seriously harms our most vulnerable communities,” Booker said in a statement, pointing to research showing the software’s accuracy issues when identifying people of color and women.

Booker added: “We need better safeguards and more research before we test this emerging technology on those who live in public housing and risk their privacy, safety, and peace of mind.”

The senator and 2020 presidential candidate has been engaged in the facial recognition debate since at least July 2018. Alongside data security hawk Sen. Ron Wyden, Booker surveyed 39 federal law enforcement agencies about how they use the software and what policies they have in place to prevent abuse and misuse.