NYCLU urges education department to review plan for facial recognition in schools
The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has sent a letter to the New York State Education Department, urging it to review its approval of a plan by the Lockport School District to implement facial recognition technology in area schools, arguing that the plan violates the privacy rights of teachers and students.
The NYCLU says the district spent almost $4 million dollars on the system, and faces an overall budget shortfall of nearly $1 million, which may lead to cuts to transportation and sports programs, a reduction of kindergarten to half-days, and the closure of elementary school libraries. The Buffalo News reports that the system cost was $2.75 million, and that it is supplied by Canadian vendor SN Technologies.
“It’s easy to imagine that students will feel like they are constantly under suspicion. Lockport is sending the message that it views students as unpredictable, potential criminals who must have their faces scanned wherever they go,” write NYCLU Education Counsel Stefanie Coyle and Western Regional Office Director John Curr III in a blog post. “This has the potential to turn every step a student takes into evidence of a crime. Youthful misbehavior or simply hanging out with friends could be criminalized. Worse, students seeking confidential assistance from a counselor or school clinic will be caught in the system’s dragnet.”
The NYCLU also expresses concern that children as young as four or five years old will be included in the surveillance, that it is unclear who will have access to the system’s database, that students “are likely to be misidentified” because the technology is “notoriously inaccurate,” particularly for women, young people, and ethnic minorities, and that other districts may follow suite.
The Lockport School District’s plan has incited controversy since it was first announced earlier this year.