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New bill would block landlords from using biometric data to harass tenants

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The piece of legislation would, among other things, limit the amount of personal data collected

Manu Padilla/

Amid growing privacy concerns by tenants and civil liberties experts, a new City Council bill seeks to restrict the data collected from keyless technologies that landlords are increasingly turning to in lieu of traditional locks.

Landlords have been replacing keys with new technologies deemed “smart access systems” in the past few years: smartphone apps, personalized key fobs, and biometric identifiers (eye scans, fingerprints, and facial recognition technology). But concerns have been raised over what data these tools can collect about tenants, and who has access to it.

In response, City Councilmember Mark Levine introduced a bill that would prevent landlords from using personal data collected by those systems to evict or harass tenants or to monitor their apartments. “We need to have strong regulations in place to protect tenants from the misuse of this data by their landlords,” Levine said in a statement.

The piece of legislation would, among other things, prohibit the use of this data for eviction purposes or harassment; limit the amount of data collected to name, apartment number, and contact information; prohibit the sale of data to third parties; prohibit collecting information on minor residents; and require data to not be retained for more than 90 days.

This is not the first time that local and federal politicians take steps to protect tenants from the use of biometric data collected. Earlier this month, City Council member Brad Lander introduced a bill to prevent landlords from mandating that tenants use biometric scanning and other smart-key technology to enter their homes. And over the summer, another piece of legislation introduced by Congresswoman Yvette Clark sought to ban biometric and facial recognition technology from federally-funded public housing after tenants in her Brooklyn district opposed the use of one of these systems in their apartment complex.