The State of New York has temporarily (and officially) banned the use of facial recognition in its schools. The ban covers both public and private schools, and will be in effect until July of 2022, when the subject will be revisited.
Before then, the State has been tasked to complete a study on facial recognition, and issue policy recommendations about its appropriate use in schools. New York is the first state to implement such a school-wide ban, which covers other biometric identification technologies in addition to facial recognition.
The new law was introduced after the Lockport Central School District activated its AEGIS facial recognition system in January of 2020. The system consists of 300 cameras spread across 10 K-12 schools and the district office, and was the subject of considerable debate before it was installed. The District claimed that the system would be used to identify sex offenders and unauthorized adults. Privacy advocates, on the other hand, argued that it would violate the civil liberties of New York students, especially those who do not have US citizenship.
The Lockport District eventually came to a compromise with the New York Department of Education that allowed administrators to move forward with their facial recognition plans. However, several local parents tried to stop those plans in court, and worked with the New York Civil Liberties Union on a lawsuit that would prevent the District from using the system.
The New York State legislature also passed the temporary ban that has now gone into effect. That ban was originally passed in July, but did not receive the signature of Governor Andrew Cuomo until earlier this week. The Lockport School District had continued to run the AEGIS system in the interim, but will be barred from doing so now that the bill has been signed.
“Facial recognition technology could provide a host of benefits to New Yorkers, but its use brings up serious and legitimate privacy concerns that we have to examine, especially in schools,” said Cuomo in a statement. “This legislation requires state education policymakers to take a step back, consult with experts and address privacy issues before determining whether any kind of biometric identifying technology can be brought into New York’s schools.”
The new bill does not limit the use of facial recognition in other departments, nor does it address the police use of the technology.
December 23, 2020 – by Eric Weiss