New York school districts plan facial recognition security despite ban
A moratorium on the use of facial recognition in New York State schools has not prevented a pair of districts from receiving approval to deploy systems that use the technology, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU).
The New York State Education Department (NYSED) was barred from contracting for facial recognition until July 2022 or the completion of a study on the impact of such systems on student privacy.
The Locust Valley and Thousand Islands school districts each sought and have received approval, however, to contract with surveillance camera supplier Verkada to deploy video security with biometric tools. The Locust Valley project, according to the document requesting funds under the NYSED Smart Schools Investment Plan, puts cameras in all elementary schools and administration buildings.
Under the Smart Schools Bond Act, Locust Valley schools have been allocated $386,964. Thousand Islands has been allocated $752,523. Virtually the full amount for Locust Valley, and just over $330,000 for Thousand Island will address “high-tech security features.”
Verkada’s People Analytics capabilities include face detection and searching based on face biometrics. Those features are turned off by default in Texas and Illinois, the NYCLU writes, due to biometrics regulations in those states. Not in New York.
While the NYCLU notes that Verkada, like fellow surveillance camera supplier Avigilon, has argued that the tools are not facial recognition, the group says that the language of the moratorium is broad enough to include both.
Verkada cameras have also been deployed in North Carolina schools.