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Reps. Waters, Pressley condemn current HUD ‘spying’ program


Biometric technology at federally assisted housing

Reps. Maxine Waters (CA-43) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) sent a letter recently  to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), urging the agency to put an end to the use of biometric technology, such as facial recognition, in federally assisted housing for the purposes of surveilling residents.

In the letter, the lawmakers raise concerns about the disparate impact such technologies pose to residents of color, who are more likely to be inaccurately identified and wrongfully penalized, and how the continued use of this technology will undermine our nation’s efforts to promote housing stability.

A portion of the letter follows:

“We have long advocated for protections against such an abuse of power that continues to be inflicted upon public housing residents,” Waters and Pressley wrote. “These policies run directly counter to the goal of increasing housing stability and fairness through HUD-provided housing, which is all the more critical in light of the devastating housing crisis facing our nation.

“While we continue to push for legislation that will protect community members’ data from use in systems that perpetuate inequities, your agency must act in this critical moment to ensure public housing and HUD-assisted housing residents are not targeted by these discriminatory surveillance systems.

“The use of facial recognition technology in the name of security in public housing is not an acceptable use of government funds since it is a tactic that causes harm to the very residents it is meant to protect. The technology increases the ease and incidence of harassment of residents for committing minor community rules violations.

“Even more disturbingly, we know that these technologies have a significant discriminatory impact that arises from identification errors related to individuals’ skin color, gender, and age and other forms of bias built into these systems.[3]This means that the likelihood that a resident of color will be blamed for a violation they did not commit increases substantially with the adoption of these technologies.”