New York City Schools May Introduce Facial Recognition

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Smile, you’re on facial-and-object-recognition camera!

Eight schools in western New York are slated to be the nation’s first to pilot facial recognition on students and faculty.

The Lockport City School District is scheduled to activate its Aegis system, approved in late 2017 by the New York State Education Department, on Monday.

The controversial program, however, may get a stay of execution.

Two days after Superintendent Michelle Bradley announced the “initial implementation phase,” the Education Department reportedly asked Lockport to delay its plans.

“The Department has not come to the conclusion that the District has demonstrated the necessary framework is in place to protect the privacy of data subjects and properly secure the data,” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed via email. “As such, it is the Department’s continued recommendation that the District delay its use of facial recognition technology.”

Citing a rise in school shootings, Bradley on Tuesday revealed plans for a facial recognition system—the components of which have been fully installed and are awaiting the flip of a switch.

“The general purpose of the initial implementation phase,” the superintendent said, “is to refine the operations of the system, including making necessary adjustments to cameras throughout all school buildings, training staff members assigned to the district-wide camera room … and engaging in dialogue with local law enforcement agencies.”

The technology should be ready for full implementation on Sept. 1, 2019—just in time for a new school year.

Already operating in airports, casinos, and retail stores, the Aegis system makes it easier to monitor perimeters and entryways in and around school buildings.

Its shape-matching system can even identify guns or unwanted visitors, triggering an alert for school staff to confirm or reject: If rebuffed, the match is discarded. But if a gun or other weapon is confirmed, local police are automatically notified and the school goes into lockdown.

Despite its Big Brother-esque ambience, the system claims it tracks only specifically identified individuals: level two or three sex offenders, students who have been suspended, staff who have been suspended or put on administrative leave, and basically anyone you decide is not worthy of stepping foot on campus.

“Aegis will not generate information on or record the movements of any other district students, staff, or visitors,” the superintendent’s letter promised.

But while the District is “confident” its system complies with all applicable privacy laws, the Education Department remains wary.

“Regulations are in the process of being finalized that will adopt a standard for data privacy and security for all state educational agencies,” the agency said. “We recommended in past communication that the District consider reviewing the standard and related materials in developing and refining its data security and privacy program. We will remain in contact with school district officials.”

New York State Assembly Member Monica Wallace, meanwhile, has introduced a bill that could force Lockport to stop the use of facial recognition for a year, while the Education Department continues studying the technology.

Lockport City School District, Aegis maker SNTechnologies, and the New York State Education Department did not immediately respond to Geek’s request for comment.