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New York state tells local district to stop testing facial recognition program

Officials with the state education department have raised student privacy concerns over the system the Lockport district is preparing to use.

The New York State Education Department has told the Lockport City School District to stop using or testing its facial recognition security system.

The Buffalo News reports that that the department "has directed the Lockport School District to cease the testing and utilization of facial recognition technology until further notice."

Department spokesman J.P. O'Hare says: "Department staff has consistently communicated to the District that they should refrain from the use of the facial recognition technology until the Department is satisfied that proper protocols and protections are in place and has not deviated from that position. Any testing or implementation that may be occurring is being done contrary to clear direction from the Department."

Before the department's statement was issued, Lockport Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley said the district was planning to continue work toward making the $1.4 million system operational: adjusting cameras, training staff on response to alarms and conferring with law enforcement agencies on the system's use.

Lockport delayed testing of the system last month after the Education Department and others raised concerns about how it would affect student privacy.

Civil rights advocates have objected to the system.

"It’s troubling that the Lockport School District insists on moving forward with implementing intrusive facial recognition technology that often makes mistakes when identifying people of color, women and young people," says Stefanie Coyle, education counsel for the New York Civil Liberties Union.

"The district’s indication that it intends to use this technology on suspended students reveals that it cares very little about the privacy and civil liberties of its students. Students of color, who are more likely to receive a suspension, will bear the brunt of this technology and could end up being subject to even more scrutiny. The legislature would be wise to pass the moratorium bill next session to ensure that more districts across the state do not follow in Lockport’s footsteps."



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