The Real Estate Board of New York to The City Council Committee on Technology on Biometrics Legislation

Maya Kurien

Vice President of Advocacy

June 8, 2024

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We appreciate the opportunity to testify on several bills pertaining to the collection and use of biometric data and technology.

Bill: Intro 217-2024

Subject: This legislation addresses the use of biometric identifier information and biometric recognition technology by place or providers of public accommodation such as retail stores. The bill would ban the use of biometric recognition technology in such place, require written consent from customers prior to data collection, and regulate the use and storage of biometric identifier information while requiring the development and implementation of reasonable safeguards to protect collected data. These safeguards include conducting risk assessments for the various systems that handle such information, testing and monitoring safety systems, and protecting against unauthorized access to biometric data. Lastly, this legislation ensures that violations of these provisions will be subject to penalties and allow individuals to bring private rights of action.

Sponsors: Shahana K. Hanif, Jennifer Gutiérrez, Carlina Rivera, Nantasha M. Williams, Pierina Ana Sanchez, Farah N. Louis, Christopher Marte, Chi A. Ossé, Shekar Krishnan, Julie Won, Alexa Avilés, Yusef Salaam, Erik D. Bottcher, Amanda Farías, Sandy Nurse, Crystal Hudson, Carmen N. De La Rosa

REBNY appreciates the intent of this legislation, given concerns that the collection and use of personal biometric data has the potential to infringe on personal privacy rights. However, an outright ban on the use of biometric recognition technology to identify or verify customers seems to go too far, as there are circumstances where such technology can be used for efficient and effective security measures – for instance to combat retail theft which continues to be of concern to many small businesses across the city. In addition, the consent requirements are likely unattainable for many establishments with large customer bases. The proposed disclosure and opt-out provisions should be sufficient on their own and as such the consent requirements are unnecessary.

Bill: Intro 425-2024

Subject: This bill would disallow owners of multiple dwellings from installing, activating, or using biometric recognition technology that identifies tenants and/or guests.

Sponsors: Carlina Rivera, Pierina Ana Sanchez, Tiffany Cabán, Shahana K. Hanif, Farah N. Louis, Shekar Krishnan, Julie Won, Alexa Avilés, Yusef Salaam, Gale A. Brewer, Erik D. Bottcher, Amanda Farías, Christopher Marte, Chi A. Ossé, Carmen N. De La Rosa, Selvena N. Brooks-Powers, Crystal Hudson, Sandy Nurse, Nantasha M. Williams, (by request of the Manhattan Borough President)

REBNY appreciates the intent of this legislation. However, the wholesale ban of certain information collection systems, including those that can identify tenants, is excessive. Many residents appreciate the ease with which they are able to enter buildings but also recognize the protections afforded to them by the use of such technologies. Among other benefits, these systems can be used to provide effective and efficient security measures for tenants and guests. Instead of a ban, the Council should consider thoughtful regulation of how such data is collected, used, and shared with others.