Brooklyn Tenants Up in Arms Over Facial Recognition Technology

LandlordsNY Member

LandlordsNY Member

Not every tenant is going to be overjoyed when their landlord decides to embrace a new technology. On the one hand, this can oftentimes indicate that the landlord has filed for a Major Capital Improvement and that the rent will soon be going up. On the other, new technology can oftentimes alienate some tenants. This is especially true when landlords make the use of apps mandatory. Even though many people, particularly younger people, use their smart phones incessantly and probably could not imagine living without one, many older individuals are perfectly happy to own nothing more than a flip phone, if that.

We reported on last week, one landlord in Hell’s Kitchen is being sued for installing a keyless door system that requires the use of an app. The tenants argue that those without phones (or those without the ability to use a phone on certain days due to religious observance) are effectively locked out by the new system. The tenant’s attorney, meanwhile, accused the landlord of trying to track tenants because the electronic key system “includes GPS function that tracks their whereabouts and requires them to provide sensitive conditional personal information to use the system.”

While this accusation is likely an exaggeration, it does highlight a key point that landlords should consider: Tenants are not hostile to new technology per se. They are hostile to the idea of mandatory changes to traditional systems. They are hostile to the idea of losing control in their own homes.

A case in point concerns a Brooklyn landlord who is thinking about upgrading the building’s entry system from a key fob system to a facial recognition system. The company behind the technology, StoneLock, claims that tenants’ biometric data will be safe and that the visual information it collects to activate the lock is “pseudonymized.” (In other words, to recognize users, the system does not rely on identifiable information.) Furthermore, this technology has become somewhat common for offices and private homes, even if it seems mildly dystopian.

While some tenants may be uneasy about the new technology because it sounds like it stepped out of an episode of Black Mirror, it seems as though more tenants are upset by the idea that they cannot opt out of the system should they wish to do so. While no one is accusing this landlord of conspiring to displace longtime tenants, the building’s tenants do feel as though they are being railroaded into doing something they don’t want to do. Consequently, someone reached out to NY1—hence the reason for the story.

This is something to keep in mind when installing a new system. When making upgrades that require the use of new technologies, try to find ways to accommodate tenants who do not want to participate that stop short of disqualifying the upgrade for an MCI. It will be less of a headache than dealing with the press.

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