An Upstate New York school district will turn on its controversial automated surveillance software that can detect guns and identify faces on June 3, 2019. Lockport City School District was the first in the nation to install the enhanced Aegis camera system in its schools back in October 2018 and will now begin testing it. The security system is intended to become broadly operational across the district's high school, middle school and six elementary schools by September 1, 2019. The Aegis surveillance system can identify guns in the video footage it records and cross-reference people's faces against its security databases. The controversial development has attracted pushback from local parents, privacy advocates and some legislators, who say it could invade students' privacy.
Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society. With another deadly massacre on the school shooting tally board-- the third in a week, the 22nd this year, according to CNN's parameters--at least one school district is focusing on making schools safer. The only issue is, it's missing the issue. The upstate New York district of Lockport is introducing facial recognition and tracking software to its school security systems, the same kind of software used in airports and casinos. Individual students won't be programmed into the system unless "there's a reason," reports the Buffalo News, but people who are "known" threats will be, with the program alerting district officials if a recorded individual comes within range of the school cameras.
In this July 10, 2018 photo, a camera with facial recognition capabilities hangs from a wall while being installed at Lockport High School in Lockport, N.Y. The surveillance system that has kept watch on students entering Lockport schools for over a decade is getting a novel upgrade. Facial recognition technology soon will check each face against a database of expelled students, sex offenders and other possible troublemakers. It could be the start of a trend as more schools fearful of shootings consider adopting the technology, which has been gaining ground on city streets and in some businesses and government agencies. Just last week, Seattle-based digital software company RealNetworks began offering a free version of its facial recognition system to schools nationwide.
When school began in Lockport, New York, this past fall, the halls were lined not just with posters and lockers, but cameras. Over the summer, a brand new $4 million facial recognition system was installed by the school district in the town's eight schools from elementary to high school. The system scans the faces of students as they roam the halls, looking for faces that have been uploaded and flagged as dangerous. "Any way that we can improve safety and security in schools is always money well spent," David Lowry, president of the Lockport Education Association, told the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. Rose Eveleth is an Ideas contributor at WIRED and the creator and host of Flash Forward, a podcast about possible (and not so possible) futures.
With the wave of school shootings that have swept the U.S. in recent years, concerns about physical security and safety have overwhelmed parents, teachers and school administrators alike. Facial recognition technology, which would allow schools and law enforcement to quickly identify who is entering their schools and when could give school districts a powerful means to make schools even safer. Last month, RealNetworks, the streaming media company that garnered attention in the '90s and early 2000s for developing the first audio streaming solution, announced it would offer its facial recognition software, SAFR, for free to over 100,000 school districts. "School safety has become one of the top national issues in the United States in 2018," said Rob Glaser, chairman and CEO of RealNetworks in a press release. "We are proud to give our leading-edge SAFR for K-12 technology solution to every elementary, middle, and high school in America and Canada.