Commissioner of Education of the State of New York Betty Rosa banned the use of facial recognition technology (FRT) in New York schools on Wednesday after a state report found that student privacy risks outweighed the potential security benefits.
The order mandates that schools are not allowed to purchase or utilize FRT. However, it permits the use of other biometric identifying technology (BIT), such as fingerprint identification. Under the order, it is up to schools to consider the possible student privacy and civil rights issues implications of implementing BIT.
Earlier, the New York state legislature tasked the New York State Office of Information Technology Services to write a report on the use of biometric identification technology in schools. The August report found that FRT has a potential for a “higher rate of false positives for people of color, non-binary and transgender people, women, the elderly, and children,” which could lead to violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if it is found to have a disparate impact on protected groups. Additionally, the report cited a separate report that found that 70 percent of school shooters from 1980-2019 were current students who would not have been detected by FRT. It also noted that a school’s reliance on tech for security purposes can “lull” school administrators into a “false sense of security.”
The report concluded that using BIT, such as fingerprint identification, is beneficial to school security with “minimal” risks compared to FRT.