New York suspends facial recognition use in schools

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legislation Tuesday pausing the use of facial recognition technology at K-12 schools in the state for two years.

The moratorium, approved by the state legislature this summer, follows an attempt by a school district in upstate New York to install the controversial technology at its schools.

Lockport City School District installed cameras in 2019 but turned them off after pushback from locals and civil rights groups.

As part of the agreement to sign the bill, the New York state legislature will pass a bill next session to study facial recognition technologies and the concerns about them.

“This legislation requires state education policymakers to take a step back, consult with experts and address privacy issues before determining whether any kind of biometric identifying technology can be brought into New York’s schools,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The safety and security of our children is vital to every parent, and whether to use this technology is not a decision to be made lightly.”

One of the primary objections to facial recognition in the legislation signed Tuesday is its replication of biases based on race and gender.

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

Other critics have raised privacy concerns should the technology become more accurate, potentially expanding the reach of groups like the police and FBI.

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