BrainChip in dispute with licensee over school district facial recognition deployment

A legal dispute appears to be forming over the implementation of biometric facial recognition by Lockport City School District (LCSD) in New York, The Lockport Union-Sun & Journal reports via GovTech.

The Aegis software suite from SN Technologies includes facial recognition and forensic search engine capabilities, and is costing the LCSD $1.4 million out of a $4.2 million Smart Schools Bond Act fund.

SN Technologies licensed BrainChip’s facial recognition software for integration into Aegis, and a legal representative of BrainChip has filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with the school district to pursue a claim that SN Tech owes it $600,000 for the LCSD deployment. A date has not been set for the implementation of the software, as officials from the district and the New York State Education Department work on a privacy policy for both students and staff.

The New York Civil Liberties Union has urged the Department of Education to review its approval of LCSD’s plan to implement facial recognition.

The FOIL request seeks records relating to LCSD’s due diligence, meetings, demonstrations beta tests, possible selection or use of BrainChip or SpikeNet facial recognition software, financial arrangements with SN Tech and related companies, and any non-disclosure agreements.

BrainChip said in a presentation to investors in June 2018 that the company had invoiced SN Tech for just over $600,000, according to GovTech, based on existing agreements, but SN Tech disputed the invoice. In a September presentation, BrainChip said that it had begun a full audit of SN Tech’s records, and in January the Australian company said the audit found SN Tech’s records “unsatisfactory with respect to disclosures,” and filed the FOIL request.

“SNTech had the ability to license BrainChip’s software for the Lockport school system and to include it in our Aegis application, but we had no obligation to do so,” comments SN Technologies Partner and Spokesperson K.C. Flynn. “SNTech decided to install Aegis, without any software from BrainChip, as a newer solution provided substantially better results around detection and matching of face and for weapon detection, as required by the software and in support of the Lockport district school contract.”
Flynn also said that he does not expect legal action to be taken, based on communications with lawyers representing both companies.

The local resident who provided the FOIL document to the Union-Sun & Journal criticized decisions of school district officials, both to deploy the technology and to contract SN Tech, while district Superintendent Michelle Bradley characterized the dispute as one between a contractor and sub-contractor that has no bearing on LCSD or the project’s implementation schedule.

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