A new town hall bill which will be presented next week would require that owners in all residential buildings provide physical keys to their tenants, fighting the recent use of facial recognition technology in low-income housing developments throughout the city.
City Council member Brad Lander, a member of the Technology Committee, sponsors the KEYS Act (Keep entrance to your home free of surveillance), which underlines the recent frustration of tenants throughout the city who claim that the facility in their buildings of facial recognition, biometric scanning and other "smart" key technologies have led to privacy and accessibility issues, instead of greater security protections.
Last March, the tenants of Atlantic Plaza Towers In Brownsville, he began fighting with his owner, Nelson Management Group, for the proposed installation of facial recognition technology (called StoneLock) in his 718-unit building with stabilized rental. The residents archived a formal legal complaint to the New York State Housing and Community Renewal, the state agency that oversees regulated rental housing, in May, citing civil rights concerns and privacy issues.
State law requires that owners of apartments with regulated rent built before 1974 request permission from HCR for any "service modification," according to Gothamist.
“Interestingly, we often talk and focus on the innovation of these emerging technologies that surround us. We were trapped in the glamor of a new device that offers a better set of convenience in daily activity, "said Fabian Rogers, a resident of Atlantic Towers for a decade, at a City Council hearing on Monday." However, no we often think or talk about false steps, like other scientific experiments, the hypothesis that comes with these technologies may have a margin of error. "
The margin of error, Rogers said, is generally "good for play and improvement," but in the case of facial recognition technology, that margin involves the personal information of private citizens.
"The biometrics of a person is priceless and exclusive to him," he said.
According to Anna Stallmann, a spokesperson for StoneLock, the technology is an optional biometric access control system without tracking capabilities.
Stallman said that user data is encrypted within the system and remains under the control of the system administrator, in this case, the owner Nelson Management. The technology is incompatible with photographic databases and useless for third-party identification purposes, he said, and StoneLock only retains about 5 percent of the biometric data collected.
According to a source close to Nelson Management, nothing similar to a facial recognition system has been installed, and the company is still waiting for comments on the status of an application to make the modification.
Nelson Management has a portfolio of more than 3,000 rental units in 11 developments in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Atlantic Towers is the only one located for the technology update, according to the source.
"This is surveillance taken one level, this becomes an intrusive way to catch not criminals, but to pay tenants," Rogers told Brooklyn eagle.
The current security system, according to Rogers, who has lived in the complex since 2008, is a three-door series. The first is open to the public, the second requires a command and the third, beyond the security desk, requires the same command. Rogers says that facial recognition technology will be added to that first door, which will add to the already rigorous security maze on the site.
Increasing use by smart key owners, facial recognition, biometric scanning and other technologies poses a serious threat to tenant rights, one that falls disproportionately in low-income communities of color that are already subject to greater vigilance in their daily lives, "Councilman Lander said in a press release.
The Lander bill follows the introduction of a federal bill, the "Housing Biometric Barriers Act of 2019" presented by the American representative Yvette Clarke, who represents Brownsville. The federal bill would ban facial, voice, fingerprint and DNA identification technologies from public housing.
The KEYS Law will be presented on October 17, the next time the entire Town Hall meets at the Town Hall.
Correction (12:20 p.m.): An earlier version of this article incorrectly characterized the breadth of the invoice. It would apply to all residential units, not just stabilized rental units. The story has been updated and the Eagle regrets the mistake
Correction (12:55 p.m.): An earlier version of this article incorrectly qualified Councilman Brad Lander as chairman of the Technology Committee. He is a member. The story has been updated and the eagle regrets the mistake.