Next week, a school district in western New York will become the first in the United States to pilot a facial recognition system on its students and faculty. On Monday, June 3, the Lockport City School District will light up its Aegis system as part of a pilot project that will make it broadly operational by Sept. 1, 2019. The district has eight schools.
Superintendent Michelle Bradley announced the move on Tuesday, as first reported by The Lockport Union-Sun and Journal. Bradley described the test as an “initial implementation phase” meant to troubleshoot the system, train district officials on its use, and discuss proper procedures with local law enforcement in the event of an alert triggered by the facial recognition tech.
The Lockport pilot comes amid increased scrutiny of facial recognition’s efficacy across the US, including growing civil rights concerns and worries that the tech may serve to further entrench societal biases. Earlier this month, San Francisco banned police from using facial recognition, and similar bills in the US hope to do the same. Amazon has endured persistent pressure — including from its own shareholders — for its aggressive salesmanship of its facial Rekognition system to law enforcement agencies. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed concern that facial recognition could be used as a form of social control in a congressional hearing on the technology last week.
At the same time, reports and studies of facial recognition’s inaccuracies and mistakes — especially on women and people of color — continue to emerge.
Other schools have considered implementing facial recognition systems, but Lockport will be the first public school district to begin using the tech, the American Civil Liberties Union told BuzzFeed News.