New York state halts funding for biometric facial recognition system in schools

Categories Biometrics News  |  Facial Recognition  |  Schools

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The New York State Education Department is not giving the green light for funding of projects under the Smart Schools Bond Act (SSBA) that use biometric facial recognition technology, writes the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal.

“The Review Board is not currently approving plans that include facial recognition technology or other similar self-learning analytic software,” the official website reads.

The decision was applauded by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which believes the state has understood the risks of using facial recognition in schools. According to Johanna Miller, director of the Education Policy Center, the department should focus its efforts on and invest SSBA funds in remote learning technology.

The Lockport Union-Sun & Journal reached out for clarifications on the decision, but the New York State Education Department has not replied.

Daniel Schwarz, a privacy and technology strategist for NYCLU, says the number of schools exploring the rollout of biometric technology is unknown, as only approved projects were published online.

Last May, Lockport City School District in New York was to become one of the first in the U.S. to pilot biometric facial recognition software in schools. A bill was also introduced at the time by State Assembly Member Monica Wallace (D-Lancaster) to pause the project while the education department looked into facial recognition, though the School District is reported to have requested an exemption if the bill passes.

When contacted by the Lockport Union & Journal, Wallace said she was not informed about the change, but that it still does not change the “necessity of the legislation because there are schools that have already purchased it.”

The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by State Senator Brian Kavanagh, who suggested the moratorium be revoked when the state education department decides, instead of after a specific timeframe.

Lockport City School District invested $1.4 million out of the $4.2 million Smart Schools funds to buy the Aegis software suite from SN Technologies which, includes facial recognition and forensic search engine capabilities. In March last year, a legal dispute started between BrainChip and SN Technologies, which licensed BrainChip’s facial recognition software for integration into Aegis.

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