Lockport City Schools are testing a facial recognition system intended to spot potentially dangerous intruders, but state officials are among those raising privacy concerns.
Facial recognition has been gaining ground on city streets and in some businesses, but is so far rare in public schools.
The system installed by Lockport City Schools is designed to check faces against a database of suspended students and staff, sex offenders and other potential threats. Schools Superintendent Michelle Bradley said the system will not generate information on to record the movements of any other district staff, students or visitors than
Bradley posted a special statement on the district's website to explain the new system, including frequently asked questions.
"The components of the Aegis system, which were approved by the New York State Education Department in November 2017, have been fully installed," the statement says. "The general purpose of the initial implementation phase is to refine the operation of the system including making necessary adjustments to cameras throughout all school buildings, training staff members assigned to the district wide camera room located at Lockport High School, and engaging in dialogue with local law enforcement agencies. The system will be fully implemented on September 1, 2019."
State education officials said Monday they had been assured by the district that no facial recognition software will be used this week while the testing of other components is underway. They say a visit to the district is planned.
The New York Civil Liberties Union, citing privacy and civil rights concerns, opposes the technology in schools.
“The Lockport School District has barreled ahead with implementing invasive surveillance technology in its schools with little regard for student privacy and civil rights," said NYCLU Education Counsel Stefanie Coyle. "We are glad to see that NYSED is reining in the district, but it is crystal clear that the state must step in and ensure that inaccurate, biased and potentially dangerous technology is not imposed on students, teachers and parents without due consideration of its effects. This technology does not belong in schools.”