Facial recognition: NYC bills would regulate controversial software

Calls to ban the use of controversial facial recognition software are growing louder in the wake of Madison Square Garden using the technology to ban certain lawyers from entering the venue. 

Two bills have been introduced in the New York City Council that would ban or put limits on when and how businesses and landlords could use the technology.

The Ban The Scan coalition is fighting to prevent private businesses and apartment buildings from using facial recognition to identify tenants and customers. 

Two bills introduced

City Council is tackling the issue by introducing two bills to prevent businesses and landlords from using facial scans. Brooklyn council member Jennifer Gutierrez is co-sponsoring the bills.

"Once they have that information, that data, your very unique face essentially, what happens to that data?" Gutierrez said. "Who is it then shared with, sold to and people have a lot of privacy and safety concerns."

The two bills would prevent businesses and landlords from using facial scans.

Boston University Professor John Woodward is with the university’s Pardee School. He is also a former CIA officer. He believes facial recognition enhances security, but he says it must be regulated and transparent.

"You run the risk of the technology being used in discriminatory ways," Woodward said. "Perhaps only certain types of people based on their race or ethnicity are targeted."   

New Yorkers react

FOX 5 NY spoke to some New Yorkers about how they feel.

The Ban The Scan coalition 

  • "I just don't like them doing it without my consent," one man said.
  • "For apartment buildings, that's a little too personal for my taste," one woman said.
  • "You need confidence in the people who are actually using the technology and faith in their motives and that's kinda hard to come by," another man said.
  • "I think it's a wonderful idea. Security is always an issue and I think it's probably the least invasive kind of security," another woman said.

What's next?

More talking. 

More testimony from all the parties involved.

Gutiérrez said they understand businesses such as bodegas and grocery stores need facial recognition for security.

But how are they going to use it and not abuse it?