Physical Security & Discrimination
Study Recommends Total Ban on Facial Recognition in Schools
- By Dian Schaffhauser
in the popular British TV show MI5
frequently relied on the use of facial recognition at train stations
and high rises, to hunt down the international terrorists among
crowds of people wandering past the surveillance cameras. In reality,
facial recognition isn't ready for prime time. That's the finding of
a research project at the University
A study by researchers in the Ford
School of Public Policy
specifically cited the heightened risk of racism and potential for
the problems for the technology highlighted in the report, "Cameras
in the Classroom: Facial Recognition Technology in Schools,"
recognition works most accurately with white men and "much less
accurately" with people of color, children, women, gender
non-conforming people and disabled people. As a result, school
security that uses facial recognition has the potential to "take
existing racial biases and make them worse, causing more
surveillance and humiliation of black and brown students."
recognition systems "will make surveillance a part of everyday
life for young people"; once it's installed for one purpose, it
"will be expanded to other uses," without students knowing
or consenting. That includes the use of student personal data by
companies in ways that students won't know about or be able to
technology "punishes nonconformity." The authors asserted
that facial recognition will force students to dress and appear in
specific ways so as not to be called out. Its accuracy, they wrote,
is higher for "white, male, cisgender and non-disabled people."
Students who don't fit those categories may not be counted for
attendance or recognized as having a school account for purchasing
project was undertaken by researchers in the Ford School's Science,
Technology, and Public Policy (STPP) Program
and arrives at a time when schools are debating the use of facial
recognition products to track students and automate attendance.
Previously, the technology has gained interest as a possible school
security measure, to ensure that people on watchlists weren't allowed
into school buildings.
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
professor of public policy, in a statement. "The research shows
that prematurely deploying the technology without understanding its
implications would be unethical and dangerous,"
understand how the use of the technology might unfold, the
researchers looked at similar types of security mechanisms, including
CCTV cameras, metal detectors and biometric devices to see their
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.
the study has recommended a total ban on the technology's use, the
authors have provided a list of 15 policy recommendations for those
at the national, state and school district levels who may be
considering its use, as well as a set of sample questions to be asked
by stakeholders, such as principals and teachers or parents and
the guidance, the report advised schools to convene a diverse group
of stakeholders to do a "thorough evaluation" of facial
recognition, including consideration of ethical implications,
understanding the transparency of the data and algorithm used by the
technology and accuracy of face-matching for all kinds of people.
Questions included: How often will data be deleted? Can students opt
out? How will you ensure the technology is not used beyond its
original intended purpose? And where does the data used to train the
algorithm come from?
full report, executive summary and other materials related to the
study are openly available on
the university website.
authors of the study will be hosting a hosting a webinar on their
findings on Sep. 16, 2020 at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Register through
the university website.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.