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North Carolina school district buys face biometrics to monitor students and staff

Categories Biometrics News  |  Facial Recognition  |  Schools

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A facial recognition system has been purchased in North Caroline by a rural school district northwest of Charlotte.

News of controversies involving face biometrics, including at least one in a school district in New York, appear not to have reached Mitchell County Schools officials or, at least, to have impressed them.

According to an article in the local paper, the Mitchell News-Journal, the district’s board of education reportedly was pleased with how inexpensive their new biometric system will be and how a trial version identified Mitchell’s resource officer through a disguise.

According to the News-Journal, Mitchell County Schools paid $67,000 for 60 internet cameras and a 10-year service agreement including data storage and system maintenance costs from surveillance vendor Verkada.

Verkada will supply face biometrics software, which reportedly will be able to identify people based on their gender and clothes.

The school district will replace its conventional surveillance camera network.

It is not known if school leaders considered reports of bias in facial recognition systems or lawsuits brought to protect people’s privacy, including that of students in public schools.

A Buffalo, N.Y.-area school district received permission from the state department of education to buy and boot up a $1.4 million Aegis biometric surveillance system in January 2020. Officials said at the time they were confident that student data would not be captured or stored by Aegis.

At least some parents disagreed and demanded the system’s removal.

Last December, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo imposed a statewide moratorium on facial recognition in public schools until July 2022.

Misuse of student data — selling it, for example — is one concern, but all digital systems can be hacked.

That happened to Verkada in March. Someone gained access to thousands of live surveillance feeds running through the company’s systems. Verkada subsequently began a 100-day plan to strengthen safeguards.

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