Facial recognition is at summer camp and being offered free to schools

Streaming media company RealNetworks has developed a facial recognition tool dubbed “SAFR”, which it provides to school administrators free of charge to integrate with their own camera systems to improve school safety, Wired reports.

A school in Seattle attended by the children of RealNetworks founder Rob Glaser is testing the system, and Wyoming is designing a pilot program which could launch this year. Glaser is a former member of the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which has expressed major reservations about the use of facial recognition technology in law enforcement, and says he is a member of the ACLU, so is therefore sensitive to privacy and civil rights concerns.

“In my view when you put tech in the market, the right thing to do is to figure out how to steer it in good directions,” he told Wired. “I personally agree you can overdo school surveillance. But I also agree that, in a country where there have been so many tragic incidents in schools, technology that makes it easier to keep schools safer is fundamentally a good thing.”

The system in use at Seattle’s University Child Development School gives adults the option to register their face, after which they can automatically unlock the school’s front gate by smiling to a surveillance camera. Children are not included in the program, and only about half of parents have registered their faces, according to school head Paula Smith.

SAFR does not come with usage guidelines, and grants approval to any institution that can prove it is a school, according to the report, and Brennan Center Liberty and National Security Program Senior Counsel Rachel Levinson-Waldman warns that as such it be dangerous itself. She also notes that most school shooting have been committed by students who are supposed to be present.

Glaser says he would welcome federal regulation, which Microsoft President Bradford L. Smith urged U.S. legislators to work towards in a recent blog post.

SAFR is offered to school from grades K-12.

More than 100 summer camps already using facial recognition

Meanwhile, Waldo Photos has been applying facial recognition to photographs from more than 100 summer camps to show parents pictures of their own children, according to USA Today. Parents register the child’s face by uploading a headshot or selfie, and the system sends pictures of the child by text.

“All the camps have photographers, and you can go to the camp websites to see them, but there are often hundreds or thousands to go through,” explained Reid Wittliss, whose son attends a camp in North Carolina. “You’re desperate to see your child – but there are just so many pictures to sort through.”

Waldo CEO Rodney Rice told USA Today that the system is entirely opt-in, and that it also includes a feature which allows it to remove photos of registered children whose parents do not want their pictures shared. It can also provide analytics to help camp photographers make sure they do not miss any campers.

Families that opt-in pay $1 to $2 per day for the service.

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