New York Bans Facial Recognition in Schools

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New York State has recently banned the use of facial recognition technology in schools due to a report stating the risks to student privacy and civil rights outweigh potential security benefits. The state has had a suspension on facial recognition since parents filed a court challenge to its adoption by an upstate district.

According to Techxplore, deadly mass school shootings led administrators nationwide to adopt security measures ranging from bulletproof glass to armed guards, and the western New York district was among the first to incorporate facial recognition technology. Reportedly, the idea was to enable security officers to quickly respond to the appearance of disgruntled employees, sex offenders, or certain weapons the system was programmed to detect.

Nevertheless, an analysis by the Office of Information Technology Services states that the risks of using the technology in an educational setting may outweigh the benefits. The report noted that there is a potentially higher rate of false positives for people of color, queer people, women, the elderly, and children. It also states that 70% of school shooters from 1980 to 2019 are currently students, concluding that the technology “may only offer the appearance of safer schools.”

Stefanie Coyle, deputy director of the NYCLU’s Education Policy Center said: “Schools should be safe places to learn and grow, not spaces where they are constantly scanned and monitored, with their most sensitive information at risk.”

The state report found that the use of digital fingerprinting was less risky, and also could be beneficial for school lunch payments and accessing electronic tablets and other devices, and schools may use that technology after seeking parental input.