In New York, Facial Recognition Debate Goes to School

In New York, Facial Recognition Debate Goes to SchoolPrompted by an outcry from the New York Civil Liberties Union, officials with New York State Department of Education and the Lockport City School District are trying to hammer out the protocols for a new school security system based on facial and object recognition.

The system, called “Aegis”, is being provided by Canadian firm SN Technologies at a cost of $3.3 million, with the school district using state funding from the 2014 Smart Schools Bond Act to procure it. It’s designed to monitor schools for individuals on watch lists, and to scan for dangerous objects such as guns. But in a recent report on the system, the NYCLU warned that the system was being implemented without sufficient clarity concerning how students’ and teachers’ privacy and related rights would be protected.

The NYCLU pointed specifically to a danger that the facial recognition technology could be used to report the non-citizen children to ICE and other law enforcement authorities, and that the data of very young children would be stored in a database. Speaking to The Buffalo News, a security consultant who is involved in the deployment contested those concerns, calling them “false”.

Responding to the controversy in a statement, the New York State Department of Education said it “is unaware of any prohibition in the law that prohibits Smart Schools Bond Act funding to be used in this manner,” but said that it is working with the school district to determine the best practices and protocols that should be implemented to ensure that it complies with the law and protects students’ personal information.

It’s a microcosm of a larger debate about the growing prevalence of facial recognition technology in everyday life, with national rights groups like the ACLU having vigorously contested border authorities’ use of this technology at airports and other checkpoints. At Lockport City School District schools, the Aegis system is expected to be implemented near the end of this month.

Source: The Buffalo News, Niagara Gazette

September 4, 2018 – by Alex Perala