Massive office landlord Vornado is planning to install face-reading cameras to track tenants in all of its buildings— including one where Facebook just inked a big lease

  • Vornado Realty Trust began installing facial systems in buildings it owns in five years ago. 
  • The , one the city’s commercial landlords with 19 million feet across 35 buildings, recently expanded its use the to 11 buildings and plans to roll it out across its entire portfolio.
  • The has prompted landlords to scramble to create seamless and touchless methods for tenants to pass through and dispatch elevators. 
  • Vornado believes its use of could it encourage tenants to return to the pot- workplace.  
  • Vornado executives say the company uses facial recognition responsibly, allowing tenants to opt in and out voluntarily and securing and anonymizing the

Vornado Realty Trust, among City’s largest office landlords, it uses facial recognition in portions of its expansive portfolio and plans to expand its use of the as are expected to migrate to in the coming months.

The nearly $7 billion company, which controls 19 million square feet across 35 properties in , is one of the only commercial landlords to embrace face , a technology that has raised public concerns over and privacy.

In a with , Vornado executives described the company’s deployment of facial recognition in detail for the , stating that it was part of a push to modernize its buildings technologically in recent years and create more convenient entry systems for tenants.

Read More: Facial-recognition could be coming to your office. ’s how companies are pitching the tech to landlords and trying to allay privacy concerns.

Touchless methods that allow in large office buildings to quickly pass through lobby security and dispatch an elevator have gained importance amid the coronavirus pandemic as tenants have become concerned about the transmission of germs in public spaces and the workplace.

Vornado has used facial-recognition in some office buildings for the past five years

In Vornado’s case, the company has employed face-reading systems in its buildings for the past five years, it said, positioning it as a potential in creating the kind of accessibility that landlords hope encourage a return to the office.

are constantly looking to adopt new, cutting-edge technologies that will make our buildings more efficient and more convenient for our tenants,” said Greenbaum, Vornado’s and one of the company’s senior

Greenbaum said that he first began discussing the technology with Vornado’s and , Roth, about six years ago after noticing that some tenants in Vornado properties had to carry with them two entry , one to clear through a building’s turnstiles and another to access the doors to their specific .

Read More: just reached a blockbuster deal to lease the massive in as a tech and engineering hub. Here’s why it’s a win for a shaken office market.

Facial recognition offered the promise of creating an entry credential that required no phone, wallet, or access card.

Prior to 2020, the company installed the systems in 5 of its buildings. It later sold one of those office properties, leaving the company with 4 buildings where facial recognition is in operation. This year it accelerated to install the technology in 7 additional buildings after hit. Those systems are operational.

The company plans to install face-reading systems in its entire portfolio, but has not laid out a timeline when that work will be complete. Among the buildings where it will deploy the technology are One and Two Penn Plaza, large office properties that the company is in the process of extensively renovating. Among the buildings where face reading is already in operation is the large Midtown office tower, 1290 Avenue of the , and 340 West 34th , where has offices.

Vornado will also have face-reading cameras at the Farley Building, where it just signed a blockbuster lease with Facebook to occupy the over 700,000 square feet of office space at the , which Vornado is redeveloping.  

How office workers can opt in to facial recognition 

Tenants can opt in and out of the system voluntarily and is about a 40% participation rate in the 4 properties that had the technology prior to 2020, a of about 6,000 of the 15,000 office employees who work in those properties. 

“Virtually everyone who has used the technology has liked it,” Greenbaum said. “ never had a preconceived notion of what the adoption rate would be, but as our tenants see others using it, they are becoming increasingly comfortable with the technology.”

It isn’ clear yet what the participation rate will be in the 7 properties where the technology was recently brought because most tenants haven’ yet returned to the workplace, Vornado said.

, the company’s New York operating , said that tenants who participate have their taken and that their biometric data is stored anonymously in onsite systems.

“Every face is assigned a number that is disassociated from someone’s ,” Silva said. “The is encrypted and stored on systems that cannot be accessed from the .”

Many landlords have shied away from using facial recognition technology, especially as controversies have erupted over its use.

uses it to surveil its citizens and oppress the Uyghurs, a minority of citizens along its western , actions that have drawn worldwide condemnation.

Clearview created an that pulled billions of from pictures posted on the internet, creating a database that could be used to identify nearly anyone.

“Based on my with tenants, many find the of facial recognition to be creepy and they are opposed to the idea,” said , CEO of Marx Realty, which has a portfolio of 4.6 million square feet of commercial space.

Facial-recognition proponents insist there are ethical ways to use the technology, including by taking the key steps of receiving consent from , securely storing their data, being transparent how it is used, and the right to opt out.

Vornado has used third-party and outside vendors to help it deploy the systems in its buildings, partners it declined to name. website, Vornado states that it uses the security company , which is owned by Vornado and has its headquarters in the Vornado-owned office building , to help it manage tenants and visitor access to its buildings and “biometric facial recognition installation and enrollment assistance.”

GMSC, on its website, says it handles security work for Amazon, Facebook, and , all three of which are tenants in Vornado’s New York portfolio.

Subsequent to deploying face-reading systems, Vornado developed applications that allow tenants to use their phone to pass through lobby security. Some tenants prefer facial recognition, Greenbaum said.

“In , facial recognition is easier than using your phone,” Greenbaum said. “If you are on a call when you enter , you likely would prefer not to move the phone from your ear in order to bring it to the turnstile.”

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SEE ALSO: Facebook just reached a blockbuster deal to lease the massive Farley Building in NYC as a tech and engineering hub. Here’s why it’s a huge win for a shaken office market.

SEE ALSO: Facial-recognition could be coming to your office. Here’s how companies are pitching the tech to landlords and trying to allay privacy concerns.

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