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July 23, 2019
by Adam Roberts
Courtesy of Max Pixel.

Across the country, states and municipalities have seen policy proposals calling for contractors working with government agencies to be monitored by what is referred to as “transparent billing software.” Lobbyists supporting this software argue that it will keep contractors, including architects, accountable to their government clients. Conceptually, it seems as though these proposals are all innocuous ways of keeping contractors working on time and on budget.

Unfortunately, transparent billing software is not the panacea it is made to seem, as it poses clear professional and personal dangers for architects. The lobbyists hired throughout the country to push the adoption of transparent billing software are largely being funded by a single corporation. This corporation appears to be the only one to have developed this software, which includes the ability to take screenshots of contract workers’ computers, as well as log keystrokes and mouse movements.

Providing a corporation with access to the computer usage of every architect doing work with a government entity is bad policy. Not only does it represent a violation of basic privacy for individuals in the workplace, but it is unknown what this corporation could do with this information. Furthermore, it is impossible to quantify the quality of design based on computer usage. Much design work does not occur at a computer; rather it occurs collaboratively in person. Even with design work that is done digitally, it is difficult to evaluate an architect through screenshots and keystrokes.

In New York, transparent billing software legislation has been introduced in both the State (S5398) and City (Int 1602). Fortunately, the state bill did not advance before the end of the 2019 legislative session in June. However, the city bill was just introduced last month, already carrying five sponsors. Furthermore, there is the possibility for new state legislation to be introduced when the next session begins in 2020. AIA New York has expressed its strong opposition to these proposals and will continue working to stop these gross invasions of privacy.

Pulse Points:

  • On July 29, from 6-8pm, as part of the Center for Architecture’s Mapping Community exhibition, AIANY is hosting a group of elected officials to speak on their experiences with publicly funded buildings. “Elected Officials on the Built Environment” will include presentations from State Senator Liz Krueger, Council Member Robert Cornegy, and Council Member Mark Levine. You can sign up here.
  • On July 22, the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) hosted “Doing Business with DDC” at the Center for Architecture. The program outlined the process of becoming a contractor with DDC, as well as upcoming bids.
  • At the annual AIA State and Local Government Network Conference last week, AIANY’s Director of Policy, Adam Roberts, presented on AIANY’s successful advocacy for Local Law 97, which mandates retrofitting of large buildings in New York City. While AIA chapters across the country have been advocating for an expansion of sustainable design, the legislation our chapter successfully advocated for is the most ambitious in the nation.

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