This project, Landlord Tech Watch, is a collaborative effort between NYU’s AI Now Institute, the AntiEviction Mapping Project, and people.power.media. Together, we have built and are continuing to enhance a website dedicated to studying and mapping landlord technology, or the digital platforms used by landlords and property managers in ways that disempower tenants while further concentrating power in the hands of corporate landlords. Landlord tech includes practices and systems of digital surveillance, data mining and aggregating, tenant screening, biometric data collection, short-term listing services, smart home monitoring, platform real estate, and more. Landlord tech has been exacerbated in the age of Covid-19, as new technologies are being deployed to track residents in the name of virus detection and rent strike punishment, while at the same time tenants are facing unprecedented housing insecurity and rental debt. Our website invites tenants to self-report what types of landlord tech are being deployed in their residences and neighborhoods, and helps inform users about the widespread use and potential harms associated with these technologies. This is particularly important since landlord tech companies are private and have no incentive to publish deployment geographies or associated harms. This SSRC Just Tech Covid-19 Rapid Response Grant will enable me to maintain and update the project’s website, but also to analyze survey data, conduct interviews with survey respondents, compile a database of relevant laws and policies related to landlord tech, convene a small workshop with tenants experiencing landlord tech, and write a report detailing our findings.
Erin M. McElroy
Postdoctoral Researcher, New York University