New York Bans Facial Recognition Tech In Schools While Montana Decides Students Aren’t Covered By Its Statewide Ban
from the oh-but-not-for-*these-children dept
For the children. For the children. For the children.
That’s all we hear. And it’s always from people arguing to expand government power. It’s never from anyone who actually cares about protecting children from their government. Instead, it’s almost always used as leverage to increase government power using the theory that only a monster would oppose something that may, albeit only theoretically, help the children.
Enter facial recognition, which is (unbelievably) now a fixture in schools around the nation. Moving far past the RFID tracking of attendance and movement, facial recognition is now being deployed to determine whether or not someone can actually enter a school.
Years of “stranger danger” misinformation delivered by schools has convinced school administrators predators will actually attempt to breach these relative fortresses to abscond with children when, in fact, most sexual abuse of children is perpetrated by people these same educational entities have already determined to be benign (family members, clergy, family friends, other close acquaintances).
Schools are also hoping to deter school shootings. But rather than align behind gun control legislation (which would certainly alienate a large percentage of parents), schools decide to spend tax dollars on automation that’s rarely capable of deterring actual threats to student safety.
Facial recognition is (nearly) omnipresent. But many states and cities have actually taken action to prevent always-on surveillance from becoming the new day-to-day reality for their residents. Facial recognition bans have been enacted around the nation. They’re still anomalies, but the fact that these bans exist is heartening. It shows governments aren’t always interested in doing whatever’s easiest for them. Sometimes, they actually care about the people they represent.
New York state banned the use of facial recognition technology in schools Wednesday, following a report that concluded the risks to student privacy and civil rights outweigh potential security benefits.
Education Commissioner Betty Rosa’s order leaves decisions on digital fingerprinting and other biometric technology up to local districts.
Good news and bad news. But, hey… good news! This moratorium (which means it’s not actually a ban, but will do until an actual ban comes along) was prompted by judicial challenges filed by concerned parents as well as well as a government report showing one such tech deployment was completely useless.
The Lockport school district deployed facial recognition tech in 2020 with the stated aim of detecting “disgruntled employees, sex offenders, or certain weapons.” The detection of “disgruntled employees” could surely be handled by non-disgruntled employees. (Disgruntled school employees rarely, if ever, return to their former employers to engage in acts of violence, most likely because schools are relative fortresses when compared to other public employment venues.)
Sex offenders, as noted above, aren’t just going to try to walk through the doors. And (as also noted above), the people most likely to engage in sex offenses won’t be recognized as sex offenders, either by school personnel or their tech.
All that leaves is the “certain weapons,” which — it must be noted — AREN’T FUCKING FACES.
So, what is it for? It’s almost useless for the reasons stated, which must mean it’s more useful for reasons school administrators and the companies they buy tech from aren’t willing to state publicly. Not that any of that matters, at least for the moment, now that the state of New York has declared schools off limits for facial recognition tech.
That seems like the right thing to do, especially given all the factors in play. But, somehow, across the nation in a state where criminal activity of all kinds is far less likely (if we don’t consider the robber baron-esque activities of wealthy Hollywood figures), it has been decided by state legislators that children should be first (and possibly only) people first against the (facial recognition) wall. This is what’s going on in Montana at the moment.
The state Legislature earlier this year passed a law barring state and local governments from continuous use of facial recognition technology, typically in the form of cameras capable of reading and collecting a person’s biometric data, like the identifiable features of their face and body. A bipartisan group of legislators went toe-to-toe with software companies and law enforcement in getting Senate Bill 397 over the finish line, contending public safety concerns raised by the technology’s supporters don’t overcome individual privacy rights.
Cool cool cool. Except:
School districts, however, were specifically carved out of the definition of state and local governments to which the facial recognition technology law applies.
Oh, wow. The state decided those legally incapable of consent should be subjected to biometric surveillance the legislature wasn’t willing to deploy against actual adults.
Public schools are government entities. A ban covering government use of this tech should absolutely have prevented schools from using this tech. But instead of protecting the kids, the legislature decided only minors were unworthy of being protected by this so-called “ban.”
According to estimates by education groups and school administrators, at least 50 schools in Montana are currently deploying facial recognition tech. That may seem like a small number, but Montana is home to less than 700 schools with an enrollment of nearly 109,000 students. Compare that to New York, which has more than 4,300 public schools hosting nearly 2.5 million students.
The asshattery of this legislated exception is backed by the asshattery of school administrators who seem to believe subjecting everyone to facial recognition in a largely rural area is a net good for students and the society they exist in.
For Sun River School District Superintendent Dave Marzolf, school safety superseded any hesitancy about installing facial recognition technology around the school.
“I just like to have the comfort to know if somebody’s buzzing at our door, and facial recognition comes up showing they’re not supposed to be on school property, it’s a good safety feature,” Marzolf said.
I would love to know how often this is actually a problem in a school district that oversees three schools and less than 300 students. The number of people not allowed on school property must number into the low 1’s. And yet, this small district that presumably has limited public funding still feels it’s worth blowing bucks on tech more likely to misidentify the FedEx driver than actually detect any real threat to school safety.
It’s weird. One would expect a very populated state to be more willing to subject people to mass surveillance for supposed “safety” reasons. Instead, we have this bizarre dichotomy where a “liberal” state cares more about protecting students from itself, while a “conservative” state thinks only children should be exempt from limits on government surveillance. But I guess it just goes to show that this era of so-called “conservatives” only cares about children until they’re born. After that, they’re unworthy of being protected from their government.