The battle over facial-recognition software has entered the classroom.

A New York school district began using the technology a few weeks ago to monitor the grounds at its eight schools, the New York Times reported. Lockport is the first known public school district in New York as well as one of the first in the country to begin using facial-recognition software, the Times said.

While the technology is touted as a security tool, privacy concerns have led to bans on its use in places including San Francisco, and the European Union is considering a five-year ban. An American Civil Liberties Union study last year added to research that has shown that the software is unreliable when dealing with people of color.

Lockport believes safety outweighs privacy concerns. District director of technology Robert LiPuma told the Times that if facial-recognition software had been in use at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, the deadly shooting there might have been averted.

“You had an expelled student that would have been put into the system, because they were not supposed to be on school grounds,” he told the Times. “They snuck in through an open door. The minute they snuck in, the system would have identified that person.”

More than 600 law-enforcement agencies last year started using facial-recognition software by one company, Clearview AI, which scrapes Facebook and Venmo photos for its database, a Times investigation showed last month. Facebook and Venmo this week demanded Clearview AI stop scraping their data.

As use of the technology grows, so does the opposition. Critics say that the software’s accuracy — as well as privacy and racial bias concerns — are even more critical when it comes to children than they are with adults.

“Subjecting 5-year-olds to this technology will not make anyone safer, and we can’t allow invasive surveillance to become the norm in our public spaces,” Stefanie Coyle, deputy director of the Education Policy Center for the New York Civil Liberties Union, told the newspaper. “Reminding people of their greatest fears is a disappointing tactic, meant to distract from the fact that this product is discriminatory, unethical and not secure.”

  • The use of facial-recognition technology should be suspended by the U.S. government,  more than 40 privacy and civil rights organizations urged in a letter last month. The U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent federal agency, should recommend that the technology be suspended until further review, they said.
  • The European Union is considering banning facial-recognition software in public areas for up to five years so privacy issues surrounding artificial intelligence can be sorted out, according to a report last month.
  • Clearview has collected more than 3 billion images from the Internet to develop its software, the Times investigation showed.