Lawmakers look for answers on facial recognition in federally assisted housing

HUD headquarters. (Timothy Vollmer / Flickr)

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A group of lawmakers has sent a letter to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson demanding answers as to how and when federally assisted housing properties use facial recognition technology.

The group of eight democratic lawmakers, which includes Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., as well as freshman Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., are concerned that the use of facial recognition at these properties infringes on residents’ right to privacy. “They should not have to compromise their civil rights and liberties nor accept the condition of indiscriminate, sweeping government surveillance to find an affordable place to live,” the group writes.

In addition to questions about how many properties have used facial recognition technology in the past five years, the lawmakers want to know if research shows that these cameras actually make residences safer and what HUD is doing to ensure that any data collected is kept secure.

“Potential sharing of this data,” the letter reads, “further heightens concerns about the risk this technology poses to vulnerable communities.”

The letter comes after the media has detailed the use of this technology in federally subsidized housing. In July Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., who is also a signatory to the recent letter, introduced legislation that would ban facial recognition technology in public housing. In November, Booker introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

The group requests answers from HUD by Jan. 24.

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Ben Carson, Cory Booker, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), facial recognition, Kamala Harris
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