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The question Can my landlord require me to agree to third-party terms of service if they install a smart lock on my door during my lease? led me to read the newspaper article Hell's Kitchen Landlord Sued For Keyless Entry System Agrees To Provide Keys which has this statement from the smart lock manufacturer:

In response to the story, a Latch spokesman issued a statement, saying that the lawsuit contained "many inaccuracies about how Latch works." He added: "At a private residence such as an apartment, the access history of individual residents at their home remains private to that specific resident alone and is never shared with anyone, including property management."

I looked around the Latch site, and could not find whether the recording of the access log could be disabled. On the contrary, for some of those devices pictures were taken of the people using the locks in addition to recording the keycard access. I personally would not agree to the terms of Latch’s privacy policy.

A lock on my apartment does not need to keep a log of who accessed it to function if I am the only person who can access that log. Can my landlord legally install a device that allows a third party to surveil me and my guests when neither my landlord or the third party claim that they will use the recorded information for a purpose?

Security cameras in the hallways are probably legally similar, but they feel less targeted to me and more transparent. If a tenant chooses not to create an account with Latch for example, it doesn’t seem like they have any way to access or manage those logs, and there is little transparency on how those logs are managed by the company or how long they’re retained. If I’m the only person who is supposed to be able to access them, then they serve no purpose if I choose not to use their app, even if the landlord creates an account on my behalf so the device will work.

When I search for laws about location tracking, it mostly involves unconstitutional searches by the government related to GPS data. What sorts of laws would apply if I wanted to prevent a non-government entity from forcing me to allow them to collect that data if I want to access my apartment? An example of the terms of service from Latch says:

If you live in a unit or space equipped with a Latch Device and are authorized by the Owner to control that Latch Device, then you are a “Resident.” (…) Owners, Residents, and Guests are all “Users” and agree to these Terms of Service and our Privacy Policy by using our Products and Services.

I don’t want to accept these terms, but I have to if I use the lock, and I have to use the lock to enter my home. It seems like it’s similar to adding additional provisions to the lease, and I probably wouldn’t have signed a lease if it had provided that the owner could require me to agree to additional undisclosed terms from undisclosed third parties at the owner’s discretion.

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Can my landlord legally install a device that allows a third party to surveil me and my guests when neither my landlord or the third party claim that they will use the recorded information for a purpose?

Yes.

Generally, you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area outside your apartment's front door that is shared with others.

Most larger apartment buildings have doormen, front desks, and/or security cameras which are more privacy intrusive than the device you describe which doesn't definitively establish who was present or how many people were present when a door is opened. These measures are particularly common in New York City in which Hell's Kitchen is located.

Office buildings also routinely have identical devices, to which no legal complaint is viably made.

So, the landlord can install a device to record when you access your apartment unless the lease expressly forbids the landlord from doing so (which it never will unless you have negotiated such a term).

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  • So they could force me to punch in and out of my apartment? A camera that monitors the hall feels like a slightly different recording situation than a time stamped log with a picture of who swiped the card, especially when the landlord purportedly has no access to it, but a third party does.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 18 at 19:46
  • @ColleenV Yes. A security camera monitoring the halls, or a doorman, both of which are widely used without legal difficulty, are much more intrusive. You have no legal claim whatsoever. A lawsuit making these allegations would be dismissed on the pleadings for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Your concerns are also unreasonable as a practical matter.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 18 at 19:48
  • A camera feels like less of a problem to me, maybe because I have experience with image processing and I’m confident I could keep someone from automatically compiling a record of my comings and goings. If a third party with unknown data hygiene knows when I’m typically at home or not, I feel a lot less secure.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 18 at 19:52
  • @ColleenV Many cameras have motion detectors (either separate or AI based software) attached that highlight the relevant times to look, so automatically compiling a record of your coming and goings is very issue. The practical risk from a third-party lock operating company is minimal. All the lawsuits involve them ignoring activity, not overpolicing it or using it to harass you.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 18 at 19:54
  • I work on things I can’t talk about, so I understand your skepticism of my concerns. What if the company had a bad actor insider targeting residents based on their access logs? Regardless, I shouldn’t have to justify wanting to keep something private. Whoever wants to collect it should have to justify why they need it. It seems like privacy is not the right way to attack the problem though.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 18 at 19:59

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