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New York bans facial recognition tech at schools

Public and private schools in New York state cannot use facial recognition systems at their premises for at least a year and a half, as governor Andrew Cuomo signed a legislation banning their use. The legislation places a moratorium on schools purchasing and using biometric identifying technology until at least July 1, 2022, or until the completion of a study documenting whether the tech’s use is appropriate in schools.

The study will address specific considerations outlined in the legislation, including the technology’s potential impact on student civil liberties and privacy and how the data collected would be used, as per a press release. The state Office of Information Technology will work with the State Education Department and will seek feedback from teachers and parents, as well as experts in school safety, security, data and student privacy issues for the study.

The legislation — S5140B — was sponsored by senator Brian Kavanagh, and was approved by the New York State legislature in July. A month before that, rights group, the New York Civil Liberties Union had filed a lawsuit against the New York State Education Department for approving facial recognition technology to be used at the Lockport City Schools last year. The lawsuit aimed to have the department’s approval of the system vacated and revoked, and have it direct Lockport to deactivate its facial recognition system.

“Facial recognition is biased and broken, and it has no place in the classroom. If used in schools, facial recognition will become yet another part of the surveillance-to-prison pipeline. Students of color shouldn’t have to fear arrest simply for showing their face in class. This technology is documented to be more error-prone for Black and Latin/X students, compounding the human bias they face every day. We also call on New York to go further and permanently ban all government use of facial recognition,” said Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of NY-based digital rights group STOP.

India is deploying facial recognition systems left, right, and centre

From several departments of the Indian government itself to several state governments and their respective police departments, the use of facial recognition technology is proliferating across the country. Recently, CBSE rolled out a facial recognition system — sans a privacy policy — for students to download their academic documents. The National Crime Records Bureau is currently working towards building a national level facial recognition system, and only very recently revealed that it wants to test the system on mask-wearing faces, and for it to generate “comprehensive biometric reports”.

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Several airports have added facial recognition systems as an additional way for passengers to board flights. Local police departments are purchasing, or piloting facial recognition algorithms — for instance, the Vadodara city police piloted Clearview AI’s controversial facial recognition system. States like Telangana have piloted the tech in civic elections, and are mulling introducing the tool for obtaining ration at fair price shops.

Indian Railways’ central division is also considering setting up similar facial recognition systems at some of its premises in Parel, we had earlier reported. Bengaluru’s railway station is gearing up to be surveilled by CCTV cameras capable of carrying out facial recognition, at a cost of over ₹4.5 crore.

Read more from our coverage related to facial recognition:

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