Study Calls For Complete Ban on Facial Recognition Technology in Schools
A study from the USA has called for a complete ban on facial recognition (FR) technology in schools.
The study, titled Cameras in the Classroom, was conducted by the Ford School's Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program (STPP) at the University of Michigan and found that using facial recognition was likely to amplify existing racial biases, which could result in unequal surveillance of some students.
"A growing body of evidence suggests that it will erode individual privacy and disproportionately burden people of color, women, people with disabilities, and trans and gender non-conforming people," stated the report's authors, who looked at data from security technology already in place, such as CCTV, metal detectors and biometric (body measurements and calculations) as a means of anticipating the effect of FR.
"Some people say, 'We can’t regulate a technology until we see what it can do.' But looking at technology that has already been implemented, we can predict the potential social, economic and political impacts, and surface the unintended consequences," said Molly Kleinman, STPP's program manager.
Prior to COVID-19, the use of FR was viewed as a potential security aid in the event of school shootings. The onset of the pandemic has seen debate among school administrators and teachers as to which technologies would work best in response to educational, privacy and public health needs. FR was seen as one way to monitor student attendance and behavior, as well as contact tracing.
However, the study disputed these findings and stated that it was both not suited to security purposes or monitoring students. Beyond the issues surrounding racial discrimination, it was considered that the technology would also normalize surveillance and create false data on school life.
"We have focused on facial recognition in schools because it is not yet widespread and because it will impact particularly vulnerable populations," said Shobita Parthasarathy, STPP Director and leader of the report team. "The research shows that prematurely deploying the technology without understanding its implications would be unethical and dangerous."
The report went on to state: "Facial recognition is neither as accurate nor as unbiased as developers claim it will be, meaning that users likely will have misaligned expectations of the technology, and be willing to entrust it with work for which it is fundamentally unsuited."
Currently, there are no national laws regulating facial recognition technology anywhere in the world and, even though the study recommends a ban on the use of FR technology, it provides 15 policy recommendations if schools decide it is "absolutely necessary to implement the technology."
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