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Faculty members sign on to pledge against facial recognition at colleges

Faculty members sign on to pledge against facial recognition at colleges
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More than 150 faculty members and academics have signed on to a campaign opposing the use of facial recognition technology on college campuses. 

Their letter, published online Thursday, urges institutions of higher learning to ban the technology, which scans faces for the purpose of identifying individuals, citing bias and civil rights concerns.

"We believe it is our duty to protect our campuses as learning environments where our students, fellow staff, and community members are safe, and that the constant surveillance of facial recognition threatens our human rights and privacy," wrote the current and former educators from schools including Harvard, Yale and Stanford.

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"Students should not have to trade their right to safety and privacy for an education."

The letter from educators is part of a wider campaign lead by Fight for the Future and college group Students for Sensible Drug Policy to block the controversial tech from colleges.

There are few known cases of facial recognition being used at colleges and universities, but the two groups are warning that without outright bans, it may become more common.

One of the main concerns is that the technology has inaccuracies based on race and gender.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal agency within the Department of Commerce, released an expansive study in December finding that the majority of facial recognition systems have “demographic differentials” that can worsen their accuracy based on a person’s age, gender or race.

Since the campaign launched on Thursday, more than 50 schools have pledged not to use the tech.

There are currently no federal law specifying when, how or where facial recognition technology can be used. Several bills have been introduced on the issue — including a federal moratorium — but none have gained significant traction.