Two high-profile Democratic senators are calling for an investigation into whether Washington D.C. uses facial recognition in public housing. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) are launching an inquiry into the allegations in light of the long-awaited report from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) which has concluded that the national facial recognition database is an unconstitutional mass surveillance program.
“Facial recognition has serious privacy implications and the government ought to operate under the strongest possible privacy protections for its citizens,” said Warner in a statement. “Public housing residents often come into contact with law enforcement while going about their daily lives, so this practice makes for an especially vulnerable population with a particularly strong case for meaningful privacy protections.”
Wyden also denounced the program: “The Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s report should send a shockwave through the federal government, and it is not surprising that public housing tenants and their representatives want to know more about it. In partnership with the ACLU, we’re holding agencies like D.C. to account, and we will continue to do everything we can to expand privacy protections and respect individual rights.”
The two senators were joined by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) who also called for a Congressional hearing into the issue. The senators argue that using facial recognition in public housing would violate the privacy of those living in public housing and points to the fact that those who are just entering the US illegally are also considered a protected class. In addition, public housing residents are often unable to afford private security cameras with which to monitor their property and have access to sufficient video surveillance resources to routinely identify offenders. According to our federal government data, this is in fact the case with many public housing authorities which regularly fail to meet the minimal requirement set by the Federal Housing Authority to provide “positive identification devices” — sensors that can automatically recognize and record images. While this requirement was set in motion to prevent things like drug and burglary crimes, the goal has become far more difficult in practice due to the existence of public housing cameras everywhere and virtually constant camera surveillance on people, though not of criminals.
The Democrats’ call comes in the wake of a report which has concluded that the “Network of Source is unconstitutional” which contains a massive and often biased database of innocent people. The network collects names and personal details — most often minor offenses like traffic violations — from sources like the FBI, Homeland Security, and local police departments. Of the 1,512 reports recorded in the report, the Network of Source held over 500 innocent individuals as potential suspects.
Totally different from the recently discovered, government database that keeps a track of US citizens who have traveled abroad.