New York state approves bill that bans facial recognition technology in schools

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The New York state Legislature voted Wednesday, July 22, to pause the use of facial recognition technology in schools until 2022.

Both the state Senate and Assembly passed the bill yesterday a month after the New York Civil Liberty Union filed a lawsuit against the New York State Department of Education for violating student data protection laws by approving the use of facial recognition technology at an upstate city school district in January.

The facial recognition system used by Lockport City Schools continuously scanned the faces of students as young as five years old to see if they matched with any photos on the school’s “hot list” of people banned from school grounds, according to the NYCLU.

The collected images were then stored in the system for a least 60 days, according to the district’s policy.  The NYCLU claims that there are also several “carve-outs” that allow for the images to stored longer. The lawsuit also argues that students, parents, and staff run the risk of being misidentified as people on the “Hot List” and the system, along with the images, being breached by hackers.

“We’ve said for years that facial recognition and other biometric surveillance technologies have no place in schools, and this is a monumental leap forward to protect students from this kind of invasive surveillance,” the NYCLU said in a statement. “This is especially important as schools across the state begin to acknowledge the experiences of Black and Brown students being policed in schools and funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline. “

In a statement, the NYCLU mentions how “notoriously” inaccurate facial recognition technology can be especially when it comes to identifying women and people of color and how that inaccuracy can worsen given how quickly children’s appearances change as they grow.

“False positives, where the wrong student is identified, can result in traumatic interactions with law enforcement, loss of class time, disciplinary action, and potentially a criminal record,” the statement says. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of parents Renee Cheatham and James Schultz,  aims to revoke NYSED’s approval revoked and to for the agency to direct the school to deactivate the system.

This story first appeared on amny.com.

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