A western New York school district recently came under fire after releasing its plans to begin using facial recognition software. Instead, the project is on hold until the New York State Assembly’s Ways and Means committee votes on legislation temporarily banning use of such technologies.
According to the Associated Press, Lockport school district intended to begin using a fully-installed security system on June 3rd. Their hope was to have the software up and running when the 2019-2020 school year begins in September. However, district officials never got a chance to power-up the cameras.
The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has been fighting Lockport’s plans to use facial recognition software since 2018, when they unsuccessfully asked the state to revoke funding for the project over concerns about how the use of this type of technology could violate the privacy of students and faculty alike.
Although the state released funding to the district, Assembly member Monica Wallace ultimately agreed with the NYCLU, saying in a prepared statement, “There are real questions about who will have access to sensitive student biometric data and how that data may be used.”
Wallace believes that the state Department of Education should study the possible risks further before implementation. “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.”
Lockport school district paid $1.4 million for the facial and object security surveillance system. The system’s software was created by SN Technologies. The system would compared captured images to a database of people banned from school property, including suspended students and staff, registered level 2 and 3 sex offenders or anyone deemed to be a threat by the administration. The technology would alert district security officers to evaluate possible threats and call authorities if needed.
In addition to recognizing faces, the software claims it can also identify and respond to 10 different types of firearms.
For now the technology sits unused in Lockport’s schools, waiting for the Assembly to decide its fate.