In response to concerns about student privacy and civil rights, New York has instituted a ban on the use of facial recognition technology within schools. This decision follows a state moratorium on such technology since a court challenge by parents against its adoption by a school district. The Lockport Central School District had initially activated its $1.4 million system in January 2020 but discontinued its use later in the year due to concerns about the risks involved, including potential false positives and ineffectiveness in improving school safety.
The decision to ban facial recognition technology in schools is backed by a report from the Office of Information Technology Services, revealing that the potential risks outweigh the perceived benefits. The report pointed out the technology’s higher rate of false positives among diverse populations and mentioned that it could merely give an illusion of enhanced school safety. The report stated that a majority of school shooters were current students, thus technology would not prevent a potential threat unless the staff identified a student as being in crisis or threatening.
The New York Civil Liberties Union, which had previously sued the state Education Department on behalf of two parents in 2020, applauded the ban. The union emphasized the need for schools to be safe learning environments free from invasive monitoring. However, decisions on the use of other biometric technologies, such as digital fingerprinting, have been left to local districts, as they are deemed less risky and potentially beneficial for non-security related applications like school lunch payments and accessing electronic devices.
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