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New York State suspends school biometric surveillance

Categories Biometrics News  |  Facial Recognition  |  Schools

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Deciding that the use of facial recognition in schools it too risky — at least politically — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has suspended its use for 18 months, and ordered it be studied in the interim.

The moratorium covers the purchase and use of any automated or semi-automated biometric identifying systems at public and private schools until at least July 2022, or until a study can be completed on their effect on students’ privacy.

The legislation signed by Cuomo (A6787-D/S5140-B) was passed by the state house in July.

It stops deployment by school systems including Lockport City School District, which in January turned on a $1.4 million facial recognition surveillance network aimed at students.

In June, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the state education department, which in November 2019 it approved the network. The approval was viewed as a reversal of the department’s prior skeptical view of face recognition in schools, according to the NYCLU.

The civil liberties advocacy organization said that the state new the kind of software used in the Lockport district “has a history of disproportionately punishing Black children.”

District officials had directed that the system continuously monitor student faces to compare them against a list of people known to have been banned from school grounds. Data, according to the NYCLU was maintained for at least 60 days, making it vulnerable to outside attack.

Indeed, a recent attack on a proctoring app highlighted the tension inherent between the privacy rights of students and the limited ability of anyone to absolutely safeguard their data.

A study by the University of Michigan published this summer found significant negative outcomes likely to result from the use of face scanning on school grounds. The researchers recommended that the practice be banned.

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