New York school district to become first in US to use facial recognition technology

New York school district to become first in US to use facial recognition technology
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A New York public school district next week will become the first in the nation to pilot facial recognition software.

Lockport City School District will begin testing the Aegis system on Monday, with plans to be broadly operational by Sept. 1, 2019, the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal reported.

The technology will be used to identify guns or flagged persons, such as sex offenders, according to the outlet. 

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Superintendent Michelle Bradley on Tuesday described the test as an "initial implementation phase" that is meant to give time for officials to make necessary adjustments and undergo training.

District officials will also work with local law enforcement to determine their responses in the event that the system flags a person or object requiring an alert.

According to the Journal, the district used $1.4 million allocated to it through New York’s Smart Schools Bond Act to install the system.

Lockport announced its plans to install a facial recognition system in March 2018.

The program's implementation has drawn backlash from critics who point to studies of inaccuracies in facial recognition technology, especially among women and people of color.

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) last year sent a letter to the New York State Department of Education that asked officials to halt the project. NYCLU has asked the state legislature to do the same, according to the Journal.

State Assembly Member Monica Wallace (D) has introduced a bill that would effectively force Lockport to stop using the system.

Bradley said Tuesday that while she understands the system is controversial, “it’s not something that is prohibited right now for us.” 

“We have a policy that intends to protect privacy. We have identified a small group of individuals who will be placed in a database,” she said.

Pushback against facial recognition software has extended far beyond New York.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Washington last week came out aggressively against the widespread deployment of facial recognition technology, signaling that they plan to draft legislation that would curb or halt its implementation.

Earlier this month, San Francisco became the first city to ban the technology entirely.

Critics say facial recognition software can be used to disproportionately surveil minorities based on its use by police officers to track and identify people in public places across the U.S.