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US schools left on their own to figure out biometric surveillance policies

Categories Biometrics News  |  Facial Recognition  |  Schools
US schools left on their own to figure out biometric surveillance policies

A lengthy newspaper article about facial recognition in schools and a likewise robust report by the American Civil Liberties Union leave the impression that local U.S. education officials aren’t leading biometrics debates.

They’re more being driven to decisions by fearful parents and fear-mongering vendors.

The article is in the Helena, Mont., Independent Record. It sketches a rural, conservative and gun-stocking state that this year banned continuous use of facial recognition algorithms by state and local governments.

But a lawmaker told a reporter he and his colleagues were overwhelmed and couldn’t address continuous surveillance in schools.

The article also contends that little has been said in the capitol about an industry that statewide education officials maintain is rife with misrepresentations and misstatements designed to provoke disproportionate fear in communities.

The ACLU’s report should be expected to take a skeptical look at claims that only a camera and an algorithm can keep students safe. But it is striking how closely its cautionary analysis of the “edtech surveillance industry” follows the Record’s reporting.

“There is no national clearinghouse or center serving an ‘honest broker’ ” for schools either seeking systems or dealing with walk-in vendor presentations, according to the report.

The author cites research, including a longitudinal study of a nationally representative sample of 850 school districts” that reportedly “found no differences in outcomes related to school crime between schools with security cameras and schools without.” At best, they reduced property crime.

Nineteen percent of students report facial recognition cameras in their school.

According to the ACLU, the makers of Bark, a student internet-activity monitor, allegedly created a local media campaign in the states of North and South Carolina with frightening statistics about cyberbullying and suicide.

Work by Vice News on the numbers allegedly revealed that the figures were larger than those the developers were citing for the nation during the same period.

The report offers recommendations for school administrators who feel vulnerable in the debate. One is to get legislatures to mandate administrators to do more. The others are tasks that administrators should do themselves.

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