Over 1,000 mother and father signal open letter protesting facial recognition in colleges

This morning Fight for the Future, a nonprofit advocacy advocacy group advocating privacy, censorship and copyright issues, posted a letter calling for a ban on facial recognition in US schools. The open letter, addressed to lawmakers and school administrators across the country, received 1,000 signatures from parents in 50 states in less than a week. It shows the dangers of surveillance and the risks associated with data compromises, as well as ways in which facial recognition can exacerbate discrimination against certain groups of students.

The campaign to fight for the future comes from the fact that more and more schools are considering using facial recognition technology to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Fayette County’s public schools in Georgia recently purchased cameras from Hikvision, a Chinese provider of facial recognition tools and monitoring equipment, to gauge the temperature of students entering the door. The Topeka Public School District acquired screening systems with built-in facial recognition capabilities. In New Hampshire, the school board at Rio Rancho Public Schools ordered dozens of GoSafe tablets with built-in facial recognition components.

Elementary and high school students aren’t the only ones undergoing facial recognition. The University of Texas teamed up with startup Clear to bring scanning to their soccer stadium after the University of California Los Angeles suggested using facial recognition for security surveillance on campus. USC Annenberg requires students in some dorms to use facial recognition to gain access to their rooms. In New York, Molloy College is reportedly using kiosks with thermal and facial recognition capabilities to authenticate students’ identities and track their health.

Countless studies have shown that face recognition is prone to distortion. In a University of Colorado article last fall, Boulder researchers showed that AI from Amazon, Clarifai, Microsoft, and others kept accuracy rates above 95% for cisgender men and women, but trans men were wrong 38% of the time as women identified. Independent benchmarks of the systems of major vendors by the Gender Shades Project and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) show that facial recognition technology has racial and gender bias, suggesting that facial recognition programs can be extremely inaccurate and people over 96% of them misclassify the time.

Experts argue that facial recognition in schools could pick up and exacerbate existing prejudices, leading to increased surveillance and humiliation of black and Latin American students. In addition, they could make surveillance a part of everyday life and lay the groundwork for it to be extended to other uses.

“The momentum is growing to finally ban facial recognition, but we know companies target schools specifically, so we need to ban it now,” said Caitlin Seeley George, campaign director for Fight for the Future, in a statement. “These tech companies care more about making money than how much their product harms children. We have already seen how facial recognition has put adults at risk – we cannot allow this to happen to our children. “

A recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan showed that facial recognition technology has limited effectiveness in schools and poses a number of potential privacy issues. For example, the co-authors write that facial recognition would encourage new codes for clothing and appearance, penalize students who fail to adhere to these restrictions, as well as create problems for schools who get involved in attending, selling lunch, and selling on the technology abandoned other daily activities. They also claim that facial recognition is creating new types of data that can be purchased by private companies, making it impossible for students to give full and informed consent to data collection or control.

A report released this month by the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project stated that any technology deployed during pandemic schools reopening is affecting potential data hacking and other unforeseen uses of data, as well as the right of students to privacy by administrators , Police and even their parents should consider. “In addition to the well-documented racial and gender biases, many facial recognition systems for children and adolescents have proven to be less accurate,” the report said. “Similarly, large area thermal scanning suffers from severe limitations in terms of reliability and potential preload. Taking temperature readings remotely to diagnose the presence of fever, let alone COVID-19, has not been proven accurate, and error rates can vary by race and gender. “

The message seems to resonate with some lawmakers, if only at the state level. In July, New York passed a moratorium on the use of facial recognition and other forms of biometric identification in schools through 2022. The bill, a response to the introduction of a facial recognition system by the Lockport City school district, was among the first in the nation to do so did expressly regulate or prohibit the use of the technology in schools.

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