UPDATE (9/27):

According to the New York State Education Department, Commissioner Betty A. Rosa issued a determination Wednesday that prohibits NYS from purchasing or utilizing facial recognition technology in schools.

The NYSED says Commissioner Rosa determined “serious concerns surrounding the use of facial recognition technology do not outweigh its claimed benefits.”

Schools at the local level, however, are able to decide whether they want to use biometric identifying technology that do not include facial recognition technology. The NYSED adds the school must consider the technology’s privacy, impact, effectiveness, as well as parental input.


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Biometric technology is used in our daily lives. Facial recognition on our cell phones, waving your hand to pay at the grocery store. But how can this type of technology be used in schools?

And if it is, how will students’ personal information stay safe and secure?

In a report released by the New York State Office of Information Technology Services (ITS), the different types of biometric technology were laid out, including:

  • Facial recognition technology
  • Fingerprint and handprint recognition technology
  • Voice recognition technology
  • Iris and retina recognition technology
  • DNA sequencing technology
  • Gait recognition technology

ITS says while these types of technologies can transmit a lot of data and information, schools should only collect and store a small amount of personal data in order to complete necessary educational tasks. Schools are also urged to delete any stored personal data once the assignment is completed.

According to the report, the Lockport Central School District has utilized closed circuit cameras to take biometric measurements of all faces that are in the frames of the cameras.

Then, the system took the images of the students and compared them to non-students, in order to test the system’s ability to determine who was not a threat to the school. The system reported any matches to the district for them to be verified.

In schools throughout the state, seven out of 212 schools who participated in a study said they utilize facial recognition technology for things like staff attendance. Other schools throughout the state say they would consider using facial recognition technology in the future — with security reasons being the main interest for use.

Fingerprint technology could also see a use in more schools. According to the report, several schools throughout the state use fingerprint scanning technology for students to monitor attendance, paying for lunch, or checking out a book for the library.

The report notes that the system used to create the fingerprint does not store someone’s actual fingerprint, but instead, a digitized version to represent the individual’s fingerprint.

To test accuracy, schools have the ability to request audits of the face recognition systems’ false positive rates — and can break it down by race, gender, and age.

For more security, the report says all participating New York State school districts are required to have a data protection officer. They are responsible for implementing necessary policies and procedures that are required by law.

Due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, all schools must also receive written consent from parents and eligible students before identifiable information is disclosed to third parties.

The implementation of biometric technology in schools will also require schools to enter a contract to make sure all student data is protected when it is shared via a third party.

Schools who do use any biometric technology must provide data privacy agreements on their websites when contracting with third parties that share personally identifiable information.

While all of this technology is available for schools in New York State to consider, respondents to surveys in the report say there are benefits to implementing it into schools. These benefits would include recognizing students and staff, keeping unauthorized individuals out of schools, and minimize fraud.

Most respondents who do raise concerns, say of privacy, a data breach, and poor use of funding are what raises flags.

To read the full report and its surveys, click here.