New York State has temporarily halted the use of facial recognition technologies in schools pending further investigation of the technologies.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that suspends the use of facial recognition technology and other kinds of biometric technology in schools. In addition to the suspension, the bill directs the State Education Department to conduct a study of whether the use of facial recognition and biometric technologies are appropriate in schools and issue recommendations.

In order to give the department time to conduct the study, the legislation places a moratorium on schools purchasing and using biometric identifying technology until at least July 1, 2022, or until the report is completed and the State Education Commissioner authorizes its use, whichever occurs later. The moratorium applies to both public and private schools in New York State.

“Facial recognition technology could provide a host of benefits to New Yorkers, but its use brings up serious and legitimate privacy concerns that we have to examine, especially in schools,” Cuomo said. “This legislation requires state education policymakers to take a step back, consult with experts, and address privacy issues before determining whether any kind of biometric identifying technology can be brought into New York’s schools. The safety and security of our children is vital to every parent, and whether to use this technology is not a decision to be made lightly.”

As part of an agreement reached with the state legislature, which will be approved in the upcoming legislative session, the state Office of Information Technology will work with the State Education Department to seek feedback from teachers and parents, as well as experts in school safety, security, data, and student privacy issues. The study will address specific considerations outlined in the legislation, including the technology’s potential impact on student civil liberties and privacy and how the data collected would be used.

“It makes no sense to bring this aggressive surveillance technology into our schools when no one has made a compelling case, either that it will meaningfully improve security or that it can be used without violating the privacy and civil rights of students, staff, and visitors,” said state Sen. Brian Kavanagh, a Democrat. “This law will ensure that State education officials review this technology and vouch for it before any young people are subjected to it. I expect that they will conclude that it is neither necessary nor appropriate in schools.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs