NY School District Begins Facial Recognition Use
The Lockport City School District in Lockport, N.Y. is proceeding with facial recognition use throughout school buildings.
According to a post by Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley, the system became operational on January 2, 2020, in conjunction with the return of students and staff from recess. The system, which includes gun detection and facial recognition, will be functioning as an additional security measure in all buildings. Bradley noted that District Policy 5685 (“Operation and Use of Security Systems/Privacy Protections”) governs the operation of the system.
Bradley said that the District has had on-going discussions with the New York State Education Department (NYSED) relating to various aspects of the technology. In order to address issues raised by NYSED, Policy 5685 "provides that in no event shall a District student be placed in the system's database."
In addition, Bradley noted that only personally identifiable information generated and maintained in the system is for those individuals set forth in the categories of level 2 or 3 sex offenders, staff who have been suspended and/or are on administrative leave, anyone prohibited from entry to District property by court order presented and approved by the District, or anyone believed to pose a threat based on credible information presented to the District by Law enforcement or will be reported to law enforcement by the District. "Finally, the District is confident that the operation of the system complies with all applicable privacy laws," says the post.
Bradley also said that images will be stored on the District systems for 60 days and then erased from the storage server, as defined in Policy 5685.
However, the school district is facing some backlash from civil rights organizations for implementing the facial recognition technology. The New York Civil Rights Union, for example, said that "the Lockport School District already proved it cannot be trusted with sensitive materials when it exposed private student files, access information for their internal servers, and passwords for its programs and email accounts. There is also a significant danger that students or staff will be misidentified as people on the Hot List. And the stored information could be accessed by hackers. If that happens, students don’t have the option of changing their faces the way someone can if their password is stolen."
The New York Civil Rights Union also noted that "these systems infringe on the privacy rights of students, parents, and staff and negatively impact school climate by potentially turning everyday school interactions into evidence of a crime or a school rule violation. The use of face surveillance also raises concerns about whether information will be shared with law enforcement" agencies.