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New York schools are ignoring facial recognition ban

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In December 2020, New York State schools suspended for 18 months the use of facial recognition technology, to study any possible harmful effects on children’s privacy.

The deadline set in 2020 was “at least until July” 2022. But it seems some school districts have just been itching to deploy the tech as soon as possible.

Two of them – the Locust Valley and Thousand Islands districts – have already done it, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has revealed. The camera system that will conduct surveillance of students has biometric tools (face detection and face biometrics-based search. The Locust Valley will have them in all elementary schools and administrative premises.

And the company awarded the contracts – worth $330,000 and $752,523, respectively – is Verkada. The money is coming from the New York State Education Department (NYSED), via the Smart Schools Bond Act.

However – judging by news reports, such as one published by Bloomberg in the spring of 2021 – Verkada should perhaps be at the bottom of the list of contractors considered by anyone, let alone chosen to have anything to do with schools.

While a particular brand of legislators in the US – and elsewhere – likes to slap the “think of the children” cliche on their freedom-restricting legislative efforts as a sneaky way to silence unwanted speech on the internet – when it comes to thinking of the children, they don’t seem to be very interested.

It seems this is just another startup that’s grown too big too fast, enabled by a mass surveillance-oriented policy that will solicit help from wherever it can find it.

Meanwhile, parents in New York will have to consider if this is the best company to handle their children’s sensitive biometric data. Not those in Texas and Illinois, though – face biometrics search is not allowed in those states.

But Verkada has already been contracted by schools in North Carolina.

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