Privacy & Security

N.Y. District Will Use Facial Recognition Software, Despite Big Privacy Concerns

By Alyson Klein — January 03, 2020 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A New York school district has announced it will begin using controversial facial recognition software for school safety purposes, over the strenuous objections of civil liberties advocates.

Beginning this month, the Lockport School District, near the Canadian border, will become one of the first school systems in the country to try out facial recognition software. The district will use Aegis software, created by a Canadian-based company, to alert district officials if someone on a flagged list of individuals showed up at one of the district’s eight schools. The software can also detect ten different types of guns.

The district’s path to using the software wasn’t a smooth one. In fact, earlier this year, the New York State Education Department required Lockport to hit the pause button on the implementation of the system. The state relented when Lockport revised its policy to make it clear that no student data will be created or stored in its data security system, an NYSED official said. And the state recommended that the district consult with its local attorney to ensure that all other applicable laws and regulations are met and that the civil rights of all individuals are also protected.

The district makes this distinction clear in a message to parents on its website.

The system identifies individuals only if they are stored in a database in an identified category which include sex offenders, staff who have been suspended and/or are on administrative leave, anyone prohibited from entry to district property by court order ... or anyone believed to pose a threat based on credible information presented to the district by Law enforcement or will be reported to law enforcement by the district. AEGIS will not include students in any category for any reason, in compliance with a request made by the New York State Education Department."

The message also explained the district’s argument for installing the system, saying it will function as an “additional security measure in all buildings.”

However, that does not assure the New York Civil Liberties Union, which has written a letter to the state asking that it rescind its approval of the system.

“NYSED should not allow Lockport’s students, teachers, and community members to be test subjects for inaccurate and invasive technology,” the organization wrote. And in a blog post, the Civil Liberties Union argued that, “children as young as 5-years-old will have their faces scanned wherever they go. Their images will be captured by a system that is error-prone, discriminatory, and puts students’ safety at risk.”

NYCLU officials don’t buy the district’s reassurance that the technology won’t store student data. That’s not how facial scanning technology works, they argue. They say it will be stored for at least 60 days, so that it can be compared to faces the district has asked the technology to flag. And during that time, the student facial data could be hacked, NYCLU officials argue. What’s more, they say, facial recognition software has difficulty recognizing women, people of color, and young people—which makes it particularly problematic in a K-12 school environment.

In fact, the city of San Francisco recently banned the use of the technology.

The NYCLU’s blog post urges readers to support a bill that will be introduced in the next state legislative session, which would ban the use of the technology in schools.

Image: Getty


Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Privacy & Security Spotlight Spotlight on Lessons Learned: Digital Safety
In this Spotlight, review ways you should be approaching student and system data, discover how others teach digital safety, and more.
Privacy & Security Quiz Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Protecting Students During Remote Learning?
Quiz Yourself: What should you know about storing video content involving students?
Privacy & Security Spotlight Spotlight: Online Student Safety
In this Spotlight, assess possible digital vulnerabilities, learn how students may be partaking in digital self-harm, and more.
Privacy & Security Hackers Post 26,000 Broward School Files Online After District Doesn't Pay Ransom
Hackers who demanded up to $40 million from the Broward School District have now published nearly 26,000 files stolen from district servers.
Scott Travis, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
3 min read
Image shows a glowing futuristic background with lock on digital integrated circuit.
iStock/Getty Images Plus