In the wake of several deadly shootings at schools in the U.S., some educational institutions are interested in using facial recognition to better protect students. In 2018, officials in Lockport, New York, installed the technology in some of the city’s public schools. As of press time, the system hasn’t yet gone live. But if it does, its cameras would scan people’s faces at school entrances and in hallways. The images would be compared with a database of individuals, like suspended students, not allowed on campus. The software can also detect if someone is holding a gun. If a match is found for a face or a weapon, school officials are notified so they can decide whether taking action, like calling the police, is needed.
Critics, though, say there’s no evidence this technology makes schools safer. Groups that work to protect basic human rights, like privacy, have concerns too. “I’m worried about how schools are conditioning young people to expect that everything they do is going to be monitored and tracked by authorities,” says Kade Crockford. She’s the director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. After pushback from civil liberties groups and parents, New York’s department of education is now reviewing Lockport’s facial recognition system to determine how it should best be used.