After a long period of administrative dialogue, New York state now has its first publicly known school deployment of facial recognition technology. The AEGIS security system went live in Lockport Central School District on January 2nd.
When school district officials’ plans to implement the system were revealed in the summer of 2018, they immediately drew criticism from the New York Civil Liberties Union, which in turn prompted the New York State Department of Education to ask the Lockport City School District to delay the deployment. The Department of Education then developed a set of guidelines for how a facial recognition system could be implemented, with Lockport City School District officials agreeing to those terms in September of last year. The Department of Education went on to add additional steps for school district officials to take before implementing the system in autumn.
As it stands now, the AEGIS system is programmed to detect individuals on a specified watch list, including school staff who have been suspended, Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders, and anyone who has been barred from school property by court order. It can also detect guns, though it has been programmed to recognize school security guards and local police in order to avoid errors. Students are not programmed into the system.
Despite the compromises reached between school district officials and their state overseers, the New York Civil Liberties Union remains opposed to the system’s deployment. The organization has asked Interim Education Commissioner Shannon Tahoe to stop it, writing in an open letter that the “approval process has been plagued with a lack of transparency and the public should have access to more information about the system.”
AEGIS is being deployed through 300 cameras across the school district’s 10 sites as well as its district office.
January 6, 2020 – by Alex Perala