New York bans face recognition in schools
23 December 2020 15:17 GMT

Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed into law a moratorium on biometric surveillance tools, including facial recognition, in New York schools. The first-of-its-kind legislation halts the use of a face surveillance system in the Lockport City School District, which was first put into use in January 2020.

“The moratorium on biometric surveillance is a landmark piece of legislation that should serve as a national model to stop the proliferation of faulty, harmful facial recognition technologies in schools,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director. “For children, whose appearances change rapidly as they grow, and for people of color and women more broadly, the accuracy of biometric technologies is highly questionable. 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.”

The law will require the commissioner of education, in consultation with the New York State Education Department’s chief privacy officer, to evaluate the privacy implications of biometric identifying technology and whether the technology differs in accuracy rate depending on the race, national origin, gender, age, or any other factor of those being scanned. The bill also requires feedback from teachers, school administrators, parents, school safety experts, and data privacy experts before the commissioner makes any recommendations about the use of this technology.

In June 2020, the NYCLU sued the New York State Education Department, arguing that the department had violated student data privacy laws by approving Lockport’s system in November 2019.

“New York should never dedicate funding to invasive and biased surveillance technology, and now many more school districts across the state will be blocked from deploying these harmful systems,” said Stefanie Coyle, deputy director for the NYCLU’s Education Policy Center. 

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