New York is the first state to temporarily ban facial recognition in schools

Officials want to study privacy and security issues first.

States and cities have banned facial recognition in government and law enforcement, but that’s now extending to the classroom. New York state has temporarily banned the use of facial recognition and other biometric technology in schools until either July 1st, 2022 or officials greenlight its use following a study of the privacy, safety and security implications. It’s the first state to block use, Forbes noted.

The state’s Office of Information Technology will team up with the Education Department to determine how the tech affects the privacy and civil liberties of students, with input from parents and teachers. The state is concerned both about data use as well as the potential for facial recognition bias that misidentifies women, children and people of color.

The law enacting the ban came after Lockport City School District drew criticism for using facial recognition across all its K-12 institutions. It was meant to quickly spot sex offenders, unauthorized staff or other possible threats, but opponents saw it as an attack on privacy and freedom that used children as test subjects. It could be used to punish kids for minor violations, for example.

It’s relatively easy for New York to suspend use during a pandemic, when students frequently have to wear masks or learn at home. Still, this could set a precedent that leads other states to ban or limit facial recognition in schools even when it’s safe for normal classes to resume.