Firms Sell Schools on Unproved Facial Recognition Systems

An expanding web of largely unknown security contractors is marketing facial recognition systems directly to school and community-center leaders, pitching the technology as an all-seeing shield against school shootings. The companies say little about how they designed, tested or safeguarded the devices.

An expanding web of largely unknown security contractors is marketing facial recognition systems directly to school and community-center leaders, pitching the technology as an all-seeing shield against school shootings like those at Parkland, Fl., and Santa Fe, Tx., the Washington Post reports. Although facial recognition remains unproved as a deterrent to school shootings, the specter of classroom violence and companies’ intensifying marketing could cement the more than 130,000 public and private schools nationwide as a premier testing ground. The firms say little about how they designed, tested or safeguarded their facial-recognition systems, arguing that it is proprietary information. They play down privacy concerns, despite worries from parents over the lack of oversight on who controls children’s facial images and how they can be used. “We’ve gotten no answers to all these questions: Under what conditions can a kid’s face be put into the system? Does the district need parental consent? Who can do a facial-recognition search?” said Jim Shultz, whose 15-year-old daughter goes to a high school in upstate New York that is paying millions to install a surveillance network with facial recognition.

It’s unclear how the systems could have thwarted past attacks, many of which involved shooters who were students allowed on campus. Companies have built sales pitches around the promise that campus administrators could block or track undesirable guests — wanted fugitives, problematic parents and expelled students, such as the Parkland suspect — before their violence could begin. Experts worry that schools are rushing to adopt untested and invasive artificial-intelligence systems with no proof of success. Andrew Ferguson, a law professor at the University of the District of Columbia, said surveillance companies are preying on the dread of community leaders by selling experimental “security theater” systems that offer only the appearance of safer schools.

from https://thecrimereport.org