Lockport, N.Y., a small city 20 miles east of Niagara Falls, is using facial recognition technology to monitor who’s on the property at its eight schools, becoming the first known public school district in New York to adopt facial recognition, and one of the nation’s first. The decision underscores how facial recognition is being deployed in new ways in the U.S. as public officials turn to the technology in the name of public safety, reports the New York Times. A few cities, like San Francisco and Somerville, Ma., have barred their governments from using the technology, but they are exceptions. More than 600 law enforcement agencies started using the technology of one company, Clearview AI, in just the past year. Airports and other public venues, like Madison Square Garden in New York City, also have adopted it.
Proponents call the technology a crucial crime-fighting tool to help prevent mass shootings and stop sexual predators. Robert LiPuma, the Lockport City School District’s director of technology, believes that if the technology had been in place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl., the deadly 2018 attack there may never have happened. “You had an expelled student that would have been put into the system, because they were not supposed to be on school grounds,” LiPuma said. “They snuck in through an open door. The minute they snuck in, the system would have identified that person.” Opponents say the concerns about facial recognition — namely privacy, accuracy and racial bias — are more worrisome when it comes to children. “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,” said Stefanie Coyle of the New York Civil Liberties Union.