Safety, Privacy Professionals Caution Against Facial Recognition in US Schools

By Chris Burt

As facial recognition deployments and restrictions proliferate among American schools, observers are calling for sober evaluation of claims made by biometrics vendors. There have been 33 school shootings resulting in injury or death in the U.S. so far this year, GovTech reports, but the assessment that informed New York’s move to ban facial recognition in state schools says facial recognition “may only offer the appearance of safer schools.”

Kenneth Trump, President of consulting firm National School Safety and Security Services, tells GovTech that so far schools have largely addressed “political and community relation problems, not so much school safety problems” with facial recognition.

Challenges for schools to navigate when implementing facial recognition include data privacy concerns, demographic disparities found in some algorithms and systems, and how to safely and responsibly handle the biometric data of children.

Notably, a school implementation of facial recognition is the scenario the Biometrics Institute presents in its Biometrics Essentials training course on ethics and good practices.

Trump says he has seen one-time grants to schools spent on technology without adequate training or ongoing funding in the past, with the result that the technology does not have the intended effect.

School World Order: The Technocratic Globalization of Corporatized Education

GovTech refers to research indicating some students are uncomfortable with the level of surveillance in schools, and the risk of mission creep, as technology deployed for safety is used to enforce attendance and pick-up rules.

Fingerprint biometrics, in contrast, have benefited students in school deployments to speed up lunch lines, according to Amelia Vance, President of the Public Interest Privacy Center and chief counsel for the School Superintendents Association’s student and child privacy center.

For New York, however, Vance believes banning facial recognition in schools was the right decision. For now, school administrators are getting precious little other guidance.

Source: Biometric Update

Chris Burt is managing editor and industry analyst at Biometric Update. He has also written nonfiction about information technology, dramatic arts, sports culture, and fantasy basketball, as well as fiction about a doomed astronaut. He lives in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @AFakeChrisBurt.

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