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NYC Introduces Bills to Limit Facial Recognition in Private Sector

Tianmei Ann Huang |

New York City Council (“Council”) members are expected to formally introduce two Local Laws on April 27, 2023, during the next Council meeting, seeking to regulate private-sector use of facial recognition (or similar surveillance technology) for identification or verification purposes.

The first bill would amend New York City’s administrative code to prohibit businesses and venues from using “biometric identifier information” (e.g., face scans) to identify or verify customers without first obtaining their written consent. These businesses and venues must also develop and make publicly available a retention-and-destruction policy, and must further comply with certain data protection, privacy, and security obligations. The proposal also includes a private right of action for civil damages up to $500 per negligent violation and up to $5,000 per intentional or reckless violation, as well as attorneys’ fees.

The second bill would ban owners of “multiple dwelling” properties (e.g., residential buildings) from installing, activating, or using “biometric recognition technology” to identify tenants or their guests. The legislation, if enacted, would be one of the first laws to place city-wide restrictions on the use of biometric recognition technology in the private sector.

Based on the introduction of these dual bills, companies in NYC that currently collect biometric data, or are considering doing so, are encouraged to contact experienced counsel to provide protective compliance measures—lest they become the target of civil litigation.