An Upstate New York school is using facial recognition technology to help it spot possible school shooters or escaped felons on campus. Lockport City School District has installed a surveillance system in a high school, middle school and several elementary schools that scans students' faces to check for matches in its security database. The controversial move has attracted pushback from local parents, privacy advocates and some legislators who say it could invade students' privacy. Each client who chooses to install the system is able to choose which information is loaded into its database. They may source the material from local mugshot databases or images of students who've been expelled.
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.
A school district in western New York is launching a first-of-its-kind facial recognition system, generating new privacy concerns about the powerful but controversial technology. The Lockport city school district is beginning implementation of the Aegis facial recognition system this week, officials said, with the technology expected to be fully up and running in time for the new school year in September. "Much to our dismay, school shootings continue to occur in our country. In many cases, these shootings involve students connected to the schools where these horrific incidents occur," superintendent Michelle Bradley said in a message to parents. "The Lockport city school district continues to make school security a priority."
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.
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.