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September 29, 2023 2:04 pm

Use of facial recognition technology in schools banned by New York state

By Staff Writer 

Following a report that found that the risks to student privacy and civil rights outweigh potential security benefits, Education Commissioner Betty Rosa ordered banning use of facial recognition technology in New York state schools. The order was issued on 27 September. This order, however, leaves decisions on digital fingerprinting and other biometric technology up to local districts.

According to Associated Press news, the state has had a moratorium on facial recognition after parents filed a court case challenging its adoption by an upstate district.

In 2020, at the cost of $ 1.4 million,  Lockport Central School District activated a system of facial recognition on the condition that no student would be entered into a database of potential threats. The use of the system was stopped later that year. 

New York district took measures to use the technology in the backdrop of deadly mass school shootings, while, nationwide, many security arrangements were made, for example fixing bulletproof glass doors and deploying armed guards. According to Lockport officials this technology enabled them to quickly identify disgruntled  employees, sex offenders from their appearance and also certain weapons. 

However, the analysis of the Office of Information Technology Services, sought by the Legislature and issued last month “acknowledges that the risks of the use of (facial recognition technology) in an educational setting may outweigh the benefits.”

The report has further recognized “the potentially higher rate of false positives for people of color, non-binary and transgender people, women, the elderly, and children.”

According to the report “unless an administrator or staff member first noticed that the student was in crisis, had made some sort of threat, or indicated in some other way that they could be a threat to school security,” the technology (biotechnology) would not prevent a student from entering a school.

New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) sued the state Education Department on behalf of two Lockport parents in 2020 against using the technology in Schools. It has now welcomed the move. 

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,”  Stefanie Coyle, deputy director of the NYCLU’s Education Policy Center, is reported to have told AP. 

The European Union is currently in the process of enabling a regulatory AI Act which would enforce legal frameworks for artificial intelligence (AI) across all public and private uses. This Act is claimed to be a standard-setter. 

Italy’s Data Protection Agency issued a blanket ban on all uses of facial recognition in November last year (2022), applicable only to the private sector, but exempting its use to manage crime and prosecute or exonerate suspects. Italy supports the Reclaim Your Face coalition, which calls for a European-wide ban on biometric technology.

[Image Courtesy of mirrorwilderness.com]

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