ALBANY, NY (WENY) – In 2020, New York State enacted a law that placed a ban on the use of biometric surveillance in schools. According to the legislation, the moratorium cannot be lifted until the NYS Office of Information Technology Services in consultation with other state agencies issues a report to the NYS Education Department Commissioner.
And Thursday evening, they made progress–hearing oral testimonies from advocates and agencies about this technology’s use.
“It’s critical that you ban the use of facial recognition in schools to prevent the children of New York from being guinea pigs for inaccurate, biased, invasive, and expensive technology,” testified Juan Miguel, Program Associate at the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Some speakers highlighted in their testimonies that this technology could potentially harm or target marginalized students and undocumented students. They also said the surveillance can be inaccurate and that there isn’t enough information proving that it contributes to school safety.
Others testified that there are misconceptions about this technology.
“These are not for tracking students; it is for helping security staff screen visitors against a list of persons prohibited from entering school property,” said Jake Parker, Security Industry Association, in his testimony.
Biometric surveillance is technology that traces a person’s physical characteristics, including facial recognition, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
James Shultz, the Executive Director of The Democracy Center, testified the premise of this technology, to predict who a school shooter is going to be, is “foolish” and actually puts students at risk.
“Nobody knows in advance who the school shooters are going to be. And once they’re there and on the school campus, the only alarm you’re gonna need is the shooting and the screaming,” said Shultz.
Testimonies from the hearing will be included in the Office of Information Technology Services report along with information from the survey they are conducting.