- New York’s Lockport City School District is poised to install facial recognition at its public schools, according to a letter from superintendent Michelle Bradley. The technology is touted as a preventative measure against school shootings.
- A pilot of the system was set to launch this week, with full implementation on Sept. 1. However, Buzzfeed reported that the New York State Education Department has asked that the pilot be delayed due to concerns regarding data privacy.
- The Aegis system, which was approved by the New York State Education Department in 2017, would scan people who enter the school and track individuals who fall into identified categories including students and staff who have been suspended; level 2 or 3 sex offenders; or individuals who are believed to pose a threat.
The proposed launch comes amid a national debate about government use of facial recognition software. In her letter, Bradley says the Aegis system is an extension of safety measures the district has undertaken, including the hardening of building entrances and the hiring of armed security guards. Other schools and districts, including St. Therese Catholic Academy in Seattle and schools in Florida’s Broward County, have explored facial recognition security tools.
Critics have said facial recognition is fraught for abuse and can be discriminatory, especially against minorities. In a statement last year, the American Civil Liberties Union said the Lockport proposal carried "serious privacy and safety risks," and that the district is "sending the message that it views students as unpredictable, potential criminals who must have their faces scanned wherever they go."
In response to the criticisms, the state has put the brakes on the trial. In a statement to Buzzfeed, the New York State Education Department said the district has not "demonstrated the necessary framework is in place to protect the privacy of data subjects and properly secure the data." According to the school district, all video footage would only be stored for 60 days, and the database would be audited and updated to ensure accuracy.
As companies have marketed facial recognition software to police departments, airports and other government agencies, some cities and politicians have pushed back. San Francisco last month banned city departments from using the technology, and others — including Oakland, CA — are said to be considering bans.