iPad Facial Recognition Coming to San Diego Schools

iPad in useA San Diego school district is launching a pilot program to have students log onto their school-issued iPads via a facial recognition system, according to a Breitbart article by Merrill Hope. The system, provided by a company called Virtual Keyring (VKR), is intended to save time, as students are continually forgetting their passwords and in need of administrative help, disrupting school lessons.

It’s a cloud-based system utilizing 256 bit AES encryption. It creates a 300-point 3D map of a user’s face, and stores it in the cloud as an algorithm, and matches the face presented at each log-in against that algorithm for authentication during login. It’s a very secure system, but again, the main concern is saving time.

That, of course, comes at the expense of money. Having previously spent $2.7 million on the iPads, the Encinitas Union School District is now prepared to spend $63,000 for the Virtual Keyring system, and that has some parents and taxpayers upset, and questioning both the value and the invasiveness of such a system, with one parent quoted in the article as asserting, “I do not think that saving 15 seconds logging in justifies the expense of $63,000 of taxpayer money. I do not think it justifies violating our privacy.”

It’s a tricky issue, but it is one that will become more and more prominent going forward, given that such deployments of the technology appear to be on the rise. Other schools in the US are implementing a fingerprint-scanning system to administer cafeteria lunches, while, in a much more serious deployment, a facial recognition system was recently installed to beef up security at a high school in St. Louis. And biometric technology isn’t just coming to schools in the US: Saudi Arabia, for example, is seeking to implement a student tracking system nationwide. Parents around the world may soon need to ask themselves just how much of an invasion of privacy such systems really are, and how much they are willing to accept for their children.

March 23, 2015 – by Alex Perala