The Dangers of Facial Recognition Technology in Subsidized Housing

40 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2022 Last revised: 6 Nov 2023

See all articles by Michelle Ewert

Michelle Ewert

Washburn University - School of Law

Date Written: September 12, 2022


Use of facial recognition technology in subsidized housing makes life very difficult for subsidized tenants, who are disproportionately women, seniors, and people of color. First, conditioning building access on facial recognition is problematic because flaws in the technology make it hard for systems to recognize people with darker skin, women, children, trans and non-binary individuals, and seniors. As a result, tenants are often stranded outside, unable to enter their homes. Far more chilling, though, is the gross invasion of privacy this technology presents, especially when data from facial recognition and surveillance systems are shared with police. Tenants must surrender their biometric data to third parties with no assurance of its security. Further, landlords can use this data to track tenants’ movements and activities. Finally, this technology interferes with tenants’ personal relationships, as it surveils their family and friends and puts tenants at risk of eviction if the systems misidentify visitors as people on ban lists or with warrants.

This intrusion into subsidized tenants’ privacy is yet one more example of the hyper-surveillance of means-tested public benefits recipients and overpolicing in Black and Brown communities. With limited resources and few alternatives for affordable housing, subsidized tenants have no choice but to accept this invasion into their privacy. Because the harms low-income tenants experience through facial recognition technology and surveillance far outweigh the benefits to the community, this Article calls for abolition of facial recognition technology in the subsidized housing context. The Article presents workable solutions to protect tenants’ privacy based on proposed legislation, agency regulation and guidelines, contracts with housing providers, and community advisory boards.

Keywords: facial recognition technology, privacy, subsidized housing, race discrimination, gender discrimination

Suggested Citation

Ewert, Michelle, The Dangers of Facial Recognition Technology in Subsidized Housing (September 12, 2022). Michelle Y. Ewert, The Dangers of Facial Recognition Technology in Subsidized Housing, 25 N.Y.U. J. Legis. & Pub. Pol’y 665 (2023)., Available at SSRN:

Michelle Ewert (Contact Author)

Washburn University - School of Law ( email )

1700 College Avenue
Topeka, KS 66621
United States
785-670-1681 (Phone)


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