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Landlord Tech Watch allows you to report your landlord for using “property tech”

PropTech isn’t just for keeping property safe, it’s for keeping an eye on tenets as well.

security camera spray painted on wall landlord tech watch
Image: Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

If you follow tech trends at all (presumably you do, seeing as you’re here), then you will likely have seen what the industry is terming PropTech. PropTech (a contraction of property tech) is the latest craze for landlords to keep tabs on tenants. But some have ulterior motives in the use of PropTech. Namely screwing tenants over.

Fortunately, there is always someone who is ready to fight back. This time it is a group of activists behind the Landlord Tech Watch website and boy are they pissed. Is your landlord installing new cameras or facial recognition locks? Then they may be trying to get one over on you. Plus, is this data they collect even safe? Here’s how Landlord Tech Watch can help.

What is Landlord Tech Watch?

landlord tech watch map

Image: Landlord Tech Watch

Landlord Tech Watch is essentially a website that allows you to flag when a landlord—YOUR landlord—installs any tech that encroaches upon your liberties. This includes things like facial recognition locks and tenant screening algorithms that seem overly strenuous. You can head to the Landlord Tech Watch and mark on a map who the landlord is and what exactly it is they’ve done to earn a place on the map.

The problem is, as the Anti Eviction Mapping Project state themselves, “[there] are few laws and regulations governing the collection and use of data in the context of Landlord Tech. Because it is generally sold to landlords and property managers, not tenants, Landlord Tech is often installed without notifying or discussing potential harms with tenants and community members. These harms include the possibility that sensitive and personal data can be handed over to the police, ICE, or other law enforcement and government agencies.

Landlord Tech can also be used to automate evictions, racial profiling, and tenant harassment. In addition, Landlord Tech is used to abet real estate speculation and gentrification, making buildings more desirable to whiter and wealthier tenants, while feeding real estate and tech companies with property – be that data or real estate. Landlord Tech tracking platforms have increasingly been marketed to landlords as solutions to Covid-19, leading to new forms of residential surveillance.”

Get off my lawn!

We know how the “surveillance state” is encroaching upon our lives. We can’t go out in public without cameras recording our every move, even if we are wearing a mask to prevent COVID. This has taken one step closer to our front door as landlords are installing property tech to fuck you over. Many landlords are absolute bastards, so this comes as no surprise. As a tenant in a rented property myself, I know all about the tactics that landlords use to try and build a picture of you. I’m currently in the process of moving and the screening was a very stressful experience. It seems landlords want to know FAR too much about you in order to rent a property.

Property Tech isn’t a new thing. However, the advances in AI have seen its popularity soar over recent years. These techniques have received heavy criticism from tenant advocates across the board. Tenant screening is one such facet of the rental market that landlords make use of. It supposedly assists in the decision-making process; whether or not you are a “worthy” tenant. Some would argue that it is far too invasive, though. Not to mention that the algorithms they use aren’t perfect and can generate a negative report about a prospective tenant. The AI is unable to apply context to a situation; something I fell foul of in my own application recently.

Not the face!

In addition to the imperfect screening AI, landlords are also treading on your privacy by installing facial recognition locks instead of regular key-based locks. You might not think this matters; at least you don’t have to remember your keys, right? Well, it isn’t that simple. Even the US government themselves admits that such tech actually exhibits racial bias. Not knowingly, of course, but they become significantly less accurate when the face they’re scanning isn’t that of a white male, which is fucking disgraceful.

The fact that this is known to the government should beggar belief that these devices are even legal in such a context. But we all know that the government isn’t quite straight down the line when it comes to matters of race and gender. Yes, they’ve published a report about the demographic effects of facial recognition. But will they actually do anything about it? That remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. At least IBM has done the right thing and ditched facial recognition tech completely, citing racial reform as the reason. Hopefully, more companies will follow suit.

What do you think? How do you feel about this type of technology being used by landlords? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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