The real life ‘1984’: using facial recognition in public housing

Facial recognition and biometric technology has become a part of life. It is used for phones, laptops and even to clock into work, and very recently, property owners have expressed an interest in adding facial recognition and other biometric technology to public housing for added security. Tenants have responded with public outcry, and rightfully so, as using facial recognition and other biometric technology in the public housing sector is an invasion of privacy.

The use of facial recognition and biometric technology in public housing is so new that there are few regulations on what information can be collected. Because public housing is run by the government this biometric data could be used against anyone who applies for housing, including folks who are undocumented or who have prior criminal convictions. It’s like running a background check any time a person wants to come home. It is not something they can voluntarily turn off at any time. 

The facial recognition and biometric technology would pose a safety risk because these personal identifiers would make it easier for a crime to be committed against a resident. Their personal information could be taken and used by anyone with the know-how to hack into the system. The last couple of months have seen multiple news stories regarding home security systems being compromised. If something as simple as a personal home security can be compromised, so can a facial recognition system. 

Though the implementation of facial recognition software brings with it a host of privacy issues, the technology may increase protection by preventing unauthorized people from entering the housing unit. Everyone coming into the housing complex would have a biometric marker on file.

However, the facial recognition software is not perfect. The software misidentifies the faces of people of color and women. The whole reason for having facial recognition is to identify who is coming in and out of the housing complex. The facial recognition system can not keep unauthorized people out of the residence if it cannot even determine who is a resident.

Although facial recognition and biometric technology may be helpful in some instances, the decision to opt in for it should always be at the tenant’s discretion. If the housing authorities wanted to use biometric technology in the public housing sector it should come with laws that protect the privacy of those who have to use it.   

 

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