More than 1,000 parents sign an open letter protesting against face recognition in schools


This morning, the Fight for the Future, a non-profit advocacy group advocating for privacy, censorship and copyright law, announced letter calling for a ban on facial recognition in U.S. schools that received 1,000 parental signatures in 50 states in less than a week. An open letter to lawmakers and school administrators across the country highlights the dangers of surveillance and the risks associated with data breaches, as well as ways in which facial recognition can exacerbate discrimination against specific students.

The “Fight for the Future” campaign is underway in a growing number of schools looking to introduce facial recognition technologies to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Fayette County Public Schools in Georgia recently purchased cameras manufactured by Hikvision, a Chinese supplier of facial recognition tools and surveillance equipment, to assess students ’temperature as they walk through the door. Topeka State School District has acquired inspection systems that introduce integrated facial recognition features. In New Hampshire, the Rio Rancho Public School Board has ordered dozens of GoSafe tablets with built-in facial recognition components.

Face recognition is not limited to primary and secondary school students. The University of Texas has partnered with Startup Clear to scan its football stadium after the University of California, Los Angeles. proposal use face recognition to monitor town security. USC Annenberg requires students in some dormitories to use facial recognition to access their rooms. Molloy College in New York is reported to use kiosks with heat and facial recognition capabilities to verify students ’identities and monitor their health.

Countless studies have shown that facial recognition tends to be biased. Paper last fall Researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder have shown that artificial intelligence from Amazon, Clarifai, Microsoft, and others. passed over 95 percent. accuracy rates for men and women, but 38 percent. Independent benchmarks for major supplier systems Gender shades project and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) show that facial recognition technology shows racial and sexual orientation, and suggest that facial recognition programs can be highly inaccurate by misclassifying people 96% of the time.

Experts say facial recognition in schools could reduce existing trends and exacerbate them, leading to greater monitoring and humiliation of Black and Latinx students. In addition, they say, it can make observation a part of everyday life, laying the groundwork for development for other purposes.

“Momentum is increasingly banning face recognition forever, but we know that companies are specifically targeting schools, so we need to ban it now,” said Caitlin Seeley George, campaign director for Fight for Future. “These tech companies care more about making money than how much their product will harm children. We have already seen how facial recognition has endangered adults – we cannot allow this to happen to our children. “

A recent study published by researchers at the University of Michigan found that facial recognition technology in schools is limited and works on many potential privacy issues. For example, co-authors write that facial recognition would encourage new codes of dress and appearance and punish students who did not meet those restrictions, causing problems for schools that rely on attendance, lunch sales, and other day-to-day technology. They also argue that facial recognition will create a new type of data that will be purchased by private corporations, making it impossible for students to provide comprehensive and informed consent to collect or control data.

A report released this month by the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project says any technology adopted during school opening in a pandemic should take into account possible data hacking and other unforeseen uses of data, as well as students ’rights to administrators, police and even their parents. privacy. . “In addition to the fact that many facial recognition systems suffer from well-documented racial and gender attitudes, they are less accurate for children and adolescents,” the report said. “Similarly, wide-area thermal scanning faces serious limitations in reliability and potential bias. Taking temperature readings from a distance was not an accurate way to diagnose fever, let alone COVID-19, and error rates may vary by race and gender. “

The report seems to resonate with some lawmakers, albeit only at the state level. In July, in New York passed a moratorium on the use of facial recognition and other forms of biometric recognition in schools until 2022 The bill, in response to the Lockport City School District, which developed a facial recognition system, was one of the first in the nation to explicitly regulate or ban the use of facial recognition devices. technology schools.

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