NY schools facial recognition system sticks around the courts

Categories Biometrics News  |  Facial Recognition  |  Schools

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The New York Civil Liberties Union is fighting a motion to dismiss its challenge to a facial recognition system in a Buffalo-area school district.

State education officials had approved the deployment of a $1.4 million Aegis biometric surveillance network targeting students in the Lockport City School District. (The NYCLU claims the system, which includes 300 cameras in 10 buildings, cost $2.7 million.)

NYCLU lawyers are making a somewhat esoteric point with their fight against dismissal. The state had put a moratorium on facial recognition systems in schools through 2022.

The state’s motion claims that education officials never actually approved Lockport’s request, the Lockport Journal writes. They were only advising the district, so no binding judgment is needed on the case’s merits.

That is not correct, according to the NYCLU, and if left unchallenged would let the state seemingly approve other projects only to say officials were merely offering counsel if lawyers ultimately got involved.

The Lockport cameras were turned on January 2, 2020, after the state education department said it was satisfied that students’ biometric data would not be captured by stored, the district’s security network.

NYCLU representatives told The Buffalo News at the time that district officials have operated without transparency beginning with initial discussions. A lawsuit demanding that the state revoke its approval and that the district pull the network out was filed on behalf of Lockport parents in June 2020.

In defending a facial recognition system, the school district has raised the specter of mass murder on school grounds. Officials have said the images of security personnel and local police would be entered into the software to better identify a shooter.

It reportedly would not have been used in disciplining students.

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