New York state has taken a significant step by banning the use of facial recognition technology in schools. This decision, issued by Education Commissioner Betty Rosa, comes after a report concluded that the risks associated with using this technology in educational settings outweigh its potential security benefits.
The ban allows local school districts to make their own decisions regarding digital fingerprinting and other biometric technology. The move follows a legal challenge by parents against the Lockport Central School District, which had activated a $1.4 million facial recognition system in January 2020.
The report that influenced this decision pointed out several concerns related to facial recognition technology in schools. It highlighted a potentially higher rate of false positives, particularly affecting people of color, non-binary and transgender individuals, women, the elderly, and children.
Additionally, the report questioned the effectiveness of the technology in improving school safety, noting that it might only give the illusion of security. The ban was applauded by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which had filed a lawsuit against the state Education Department on behalf of Lockport parents in 2020. They emphasized the importance of schools being safe places for learning and growth, free from constant scanning and monitoring.
The report also indicated that while facial recognition technology couldn’t prevent a student from entering a school, it could only be useful if school staff noticed signs of a student in crisis or posing a threat to school security.
In contrast, the use of digital fingerprinting was deemed less risky and potentially beneficial for tasks like school lunch payments and accessing electronic devices.
Schools may consider adopting digital fingerprinting technology after obtaining parental input. This decision reflects a growing awareness of the complexities surrounding the use of surveillance technology in educational institutions and the need to prioritize students’ privacy and civil rights.