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.
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.
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.
The facial-recognition cameras installed near the bounce houses at the Warehouse, an after-school recreation center in Bloomington, Indiana, are aimed low enough to scan the face of every parent, teenager and toddler who walks in. The center's director, David Weil, learned earlier this year of the surveillance system from a church newsletter, and within six weeks he had bought his own, believing it promised a security breakthrough that was both affordable and cutting-edge. Since last month, the system has logged thousands of visitors' faces – alongside their names, phone numbers and other personal details – and checked them against a regularly updated blacklist of sex offenders and unwanted guests. The system's Israeli developer, Face-Six, also promotes it for use in prisons and drones. "Some parents still think it's kind of '1984,' " said Weil, whose 21-month-old granddaughter is among the scanned.
In the 11 months since 17 teachers and students were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, campuses across the country have started spending big on surveillance technology. The Lockport, New York, school district spent $1.4 million in state funds on a facial-recognition system. Schools in Michigan, Massachusetts, and Los Angeles have adopted artificial-intelligence software--prone to false positives--that scans students' Facebook and Twitter accounts for signs that they might become a shooter. In New Mexico, students as young as 6 are under acoustic surveillance, thanks to a gunshot-detection program originally developed for use by the military to track enemy snipers. Earlier this month, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission released its report on the safety and security failures that contributed to fatalities during last year's shooting.