N.Y. school district moves closer to being able to use facial, object recognition system

State's chief privacy officer says if Lockport adopts privacy recommendations then they will be allowed to use controversial tech

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, N.Y.
Temitope Akinyemi, the chief privacy officer for the New York State Eduction Department, wrote to Lockport Superintendent Michelle Bradley saying that if privacy changes, which further clarify students won't be in the system database, are made then the state education department will allow the district to use its facial and object recognition system.
Temitope Akinyemi, the chief privacy officer for the New York State Eduction Department, wrote to Lockport Superintendent Michelle Bradley saying that if privacy changes, which further clarify students won't be in the system database, are made then the state education department will allow the district to use its facial and object recognition system.
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The Lockport School Board Policy Committee will review policy recommendations made last week by the state education department's chief privacy officer.

Temitope Akinyemi, the chief privacy officer for the New York State Eduction Department, wrote to Lockport Superintendent Michelle Bradley saying that if the changes, which further clarify students won't be in the system database, are made then the state education department will allow the district to use its facial and object recognition system.

Bradley said the Policy Committee is planning to discuss the facial recognition policy and the requested revisions at its meeting at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday. It will decide if policy changes are to be brought forward to the board of education for a first draft reading and then a second reading.

She said the initial implementation phase is still ongoing and the district will continue to work on the cameras, perform training and develop procedures with law enforcement. Currently there is no definitive date for the launch of the technology, Bradley added.

Several school board trustees had expressed a desire to ensure as many law enforcement agencies are brought into the process because the district crosses law enforcement jurisdictional lines with George Southard Elementary School being in the town. District Technology Director Robert LiPuma said they are working with the Lockport Police Department, the Niagara County Sheriff's Office and the New York State Police to develop procedures.

In the letter, Akinyemi said they wanted a scope section at the beginning of the policy and language in the Maintenance of Databases section, both to clarify that student data will not be created or maintained by the district's use of the system. Akinyemi also wanted language changed in the "privacy" section of the policy, which deals with sharing information with law enforcement or other governmental authorities, to clarify that this language does not apply to students.

"With these additional revisions, the department believes that the Education Law §2-d issues it has raised to date relating to the impact on the privacy of students and student data appear to be addressed," Akinyemi wrote. "However, the department recommends that the district work with its local counsel to ensure that all other applicable laws and regulations are met and that the civil rights of all individuals are also protected when it comes to the District’s use of technology. We thank you for your cooperation throughout this process and please continue to provide us with any updates on the use of such technology in your schools."

The district used $1.4 million of the $4.2 million allocated to it through New York’s Smart Schools Bond Act to acquire and install one of the first facial and object recognition security systems in an American school. The system relies on the Aegis software suite created by Canadian-based SN Technologies.

The facial recognition software works by using a database of flagged individuals and sending an alert to district personnel when a flagged person is detected on school property. The object recognition portion of the system would alert law enforcement as well if a weapon is detected.

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