New York’s state Education Department banned facial recognition technology in schools Wednesday but will still allow schools to decide whether to use other forms of biometric identifying technology.
The determination from Education Commissioner Betty Rosa came after a state report in August urged New York’s schools to exercise caution in their use of constantly evolving biometric identifying technology.
“We have concerns over @NYSEDNews permitting the use of other kinds of biometric technology, but we are gratified that the State has affirmed that facial recognition tech has NO place in our classrooms,” the New York Civil Liberties Union said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
The ban applies to both public and private schools.
The August report showed just seven districts had begun to use facial recognition technology in schools, though half of districts surveyed said they might consider it in the future.
Wednesday’s decision will put a stop to that, at least for now.
Rosa’s determination referenced the August report and said that the concerns over facial recognition technology — higher rates of false positives in people of color, women and nonbinary and transgender people — outweigh any benefits.
Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents President-Elect Marc Baiocco said he agreed with the ban.
“For us in the schools we know our students, so what exactly would we be getting from the facial recognition technology?” he said.
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Baiocco also echoed NYCLU’s concerns about the other forms of biometric technology, noting advancements in technology can now include the use of biometrics, such as access panels on doors.
But there are still many unknowns.
“The concerns associated with widely used biometric identifying technology other than facial recognition technology are either minimal/beneficial (e.g., fingerprint identification) or unknown due to their infrequent or nonexistent use in New York schools,” the determination said.
Any schools using facial recognition technology must stop and the purchase or use of facial recognition technology is no longer allowed in schools under the ban. But schools will have to continue to make decisions around other technologies during a time when advancements come faster than formal guidance.
“We need to always find that balance between safety and privacy,” Baiocco said.