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This article was originally published in in the 2016 Election Corner back in May 2016. Considering that this issue continues to have significant impact on our neighbors, it is being republished as part of the main SPBuzz.org site, as not to be relegated to the dusty corners of Seward Park history.

The Devil Who Knows You:
Electronic Key Fobs -vs- Our Right To Privacy

You don’t know with whom I keep company or even when I'm home. That is how it should be. — Future Proverb

We live in an age of surveillance – cell phones track our locations, scanners read our license plates, and advertisers track our every online move. What ever happened to privacy? Is being able to collect data a reason to do so?

Knowing how people circulate through our property can inform all sorts of maintenance, management, construction, and security decisions. However, maintaining logs of the comings and goings of individuals in our community is unnecessary, lacks due process, and erodes the privacy expect to have in our homes. Furthermore, in the wrong hands, such logs could unreasonably aid people seeking to investigate, harass or commit crimes against us.

We are grateful that our community is indeed safe and trusting and not governed by suspicion and fear. But in this regard, the new policy which has been introduced in conjunction with the key fobs is unreasonably restrictive intrusive:

Each fob has a designated user. We have assigned key fobs to shareholders/residents who are registered with the Management office. If you need one for unregistered residents or non-residents, such as a home health aide, dog walker, housekeeper, or nanny, you must register them with the Management office to receive a key fob for their use.

Until now, discretionary keys were allotted to Shareholders upon request. This has led to a proliferation of keys circulating in our neighborhood, as many keys remain in the hands of former shareholders, former housekeepers, and people long forgotten. Electronic key fobs present a solution to this problem, and we applaud management and the Board for introducing them. Yet by addressing this longstanding security concern we open the door to a brand new privacy concern. Perhaps this is being done unwittingly, but it certainly deserves to be questioned.

§ There is a notion that registering every key fob to an individual will lead to improved security. This is not true. Every key fob will be registered to an apartment; in the event of any sort of incident, the activity could still be traced back to that apartment.

§ There is a notion that registering every key fob to an individual will lead to a reduction in illegal sublets. This is not true – people who are intent on illegally subletting their apartments will simply get
extra key fobs in the names of non-existent dog-walkers and housekeepers. Ultimately, there are other measures that are better suited to address this concern.

§ There is a notion, that keeping track of everyone who enters our building is a benefit unto itself. Alas, this won’t be achieved either – many shareholders are already registering extra key fobs under other people’s names so that they can have the “discretionary” key fobs they should really be entitled to have!

Letís not go overboard! Just registering key fobs to to apartments will effectively address all our concerns. There is no reason to simultaneously track whom we invite into our homes and when. To declare policies such as are being presented as a means of circumventing abuse is simply an overzealous response to the the problem.

With this in mind, we propose that new policies be implemented as follows:

  1. All apartments be allocated at least two key fobs, with additional key fobs available at Shareholders' discretion. The option to register key fobs to individual users should still exist as a means for specfic cases when Shareholders wish to controlling visitors' access to our buildings.
  2. Data Security Policies be implemented:
    1. As a rule, reports generated by our grounds-access database should exclude information that can identify individual Shareholders, such as names, apartment numbers, key fob serial numbers, or even floors.
    2. To the extent possible, “specific” queries pertaining to individual shareholders should be prevented, and in any case, record of all such queries should be logged and made available to all Directors. In the event that reports that identify Shareholders are accessed by or conveyed to anyone outside of Management or the Board, the entire Board should be notified, as well as the individual(s) involved.
    3. A "data retention policy" should be implemented whereby logs that include key fob serial numbers, Shareholder names, or Apartment numbers are automatically purged on a seven-day rolling basis.
  3. The policy instructed Shareholders to register additional key fobs for housekeepers, dog walkers, and other regular visitors. While in certain cases, it is certainly appropriate to grant key fobs to such people, in others, it is certainly inappropriate and burdensome. Rather than issuing key fobs to every temporary, short-term, or occasional visitor, our Security staff should maintain lists of authorized visitors, hours at which they can be admitted, and contact information for the Shareholder involved.

As a final note, the first version of this article omitted discussion of certain concerns because it seemed that the key fob policy was not being implemented as published — SPBuzz was able to obtain a second key fob for an apartment just by writing "extra" on the form. However, the policy remains in place and continues to be officially promoted. As such not only might it be enforced, but might also be selectively enforced... and that would entail a whole new set of problems.