New York state has banned the use of facial recognition technology in schools, weeks after a report concluded that the risks to student privacy and civil rights outweighed potential security benefits.
The Associated Press reports that Education Commissioner Betty Rosa’s order leaves decisions on digital fingerprinting and other biometric technology up to local districts.
"No school in the state of New York shall purchase or utilize facial recognition technology," Rosa's order stated.
The state has had a moratorium on facial recognition since 2020 after parents filed a court challenge to its adoption by the Lockport Central School District. Lockport activated its system in January 2020 after meeting conditions set by state education officials at the time, including that no students be entered into the database of potential threats. The district stopped using the $1.4 million system later that year.
Lockport officials said the idea behind use of the technology was to enable security officers to quickly respond to the appearance of disgruntled employees, sex offenders or certain weapons the system was programmed to detect.
But an analysis issued last month by the Office of Information Technology Services “acknowledges that the risks of the use of (facial recognition technology) in an educational setting may outweigh the benefits.”
The report noted “the potentially higher rate of false positives for people of color, non-binary and transgender people, women, the elderly, and children.”
It also cited research that found that 70% of school shooters from 1980 to 2019 were current students. Facial recognition technology, the report said, “may only offer the appearance of safer schools.”
Biotechnology would not stop a student from entering a school “unless an administrator or staff member first noticed that the student was in crisis, had made some sort of threat, or indicated in some other way that they could be a threat to school security,” the report said.