The state of New York voted this week to pause any implementation of facial recognition technology in schools for two years.
The moratorium, approved by the New York Assembly and Senate Wednesday, comes after an upstate school district adopted the technology earlier this year, prompting a lawsuit in June from the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of parents.
If New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the legislation into law, the moratorium would freeze the use of any facial recognition school systems in the state until July 1, 2022.
Earlier this week, a school district in Topeka, Kansas announced that it would employ facial recognition technology at a temperature check kiosk for staff as part of its plan to reopen schools.
Unfortunately, such a system would not be capable of preventing asymptomatic spread of the virus—one of COVID-19’s most challenging features.
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Together with the pandemic still ravaging the U.S., the dilemma of school reopening is becoming profoundly politicized. At a briefing earlier this month, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany contended that”science shouldn’t stand in the way” of reopenings.
“Facial recognition business use some angle they can to advertise their product into colleges –but that one is just completely absurd,” Fight for the upcoming Campaign Director Caitlin Seeley George said of the tech’s projected college execution in Kansas.
“Facial recognition won’t block the spread of COVID-19 schools and colleges should not buy in to this hokum.”
New York’s moratorium has been regarded as a significant success by electronic privacy advocates, who call into question not just the surveillance tech’s possible concerns for civil liberties but also the tech’s capacity to achieve its stated goals in any way.
The effectiveness of these technology has come under fire in research demonstrating high false positive rates and racial biases promoted into themselves.
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“We have said for decades that facial recognition and other biometric surveillance technology don’t have any place in universities, and this really is a massive leap forward to safeguard students from using this type of invasive surveillance,” NYCLU Education Policy Center Deputy Director Stefanie Coyle stated.
“Schools ought to be an environment in which kids can grow and learn, and also the existence of a faulty and racially-biased system continuously tracking pupils makes that impossible.”
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