New York State

A bill to halt facial recognition tech in schools

Since Lockport City School District officials announced plans to test a facial recognition system in its schools last week, civil rights advocates have been raising alarms about the technology’s privacy and security risks.

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Since Lockport City School District officials announced plans to test a facial recognition system in its schools last week, civil rights advocates have been raising alarms about the technology’s privacy and security risks. And despite the New York State Education Department echoing some of those concerns and calling on the district to delay its pilot phase, Lockport began testing some components of its Aegis system on Monday.

The district has specified that the tests will not include student data being entered into the system. They’ve also said that this week’s testing will only include components of the system that don’t involve the use of facial recognition software, but adjusting mounted cameras, for example. But legislation in the state Assembly could potentially stop the testing. “Facial recognition software is new and untested, especially in schools,” Assemblywoman Monica Wallace, the bill’s sponsor, said in an emailed statement. “There are real questions about its reliability. There are real questions about who will have access to sensitive student biometric data and how that data may be used.”

Wallace’s bill would require schools to halt the use of biometric identifying technology while the commissioner of education conducts a study of its usage. But with a few weeks left of session, the legislation, which is co-sponsored by state Sen. Brian Kavanagh, faces a steep uphill battle. Still, Wallace said on Monday that a review is called for. “Before rushing forward with implementation, I think it is prudent to have the state Department of Education study the issue and to assess the reliability, cost, and privacy risks associated with its use,” she said. “My legislation doesn’t seek to prohibit use, it simply asks that we take a closer look before moving forward and implement guidelines to ensure student privacy will be protected.”

For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to reflect that there is a companion bill in the state Senate. 

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