After Lockport City School District had its facial recognition system featured and tested on a national news report, the New York State Education Department is reminding the district not to test the system until further notice.
In an NBC Today Show report, which aired Wednesday, reporter Stephanie Gosk was given an exclusive test of the facial recognition system when administrators put her photograph into the data base as a person of interest and she was identified by the system. Gosk also had School Resource Officer Michael Stover show her the system's weapon detection capabilities which he did by holding up a handgun and showing her how the system would detect it in his hands.
The test came after NYSED issued, multiple times, a clear directive for the district to refrain from testing the system until further notice. When asked whether the department considered the NBC report a violation, a spokesperson said the department contacted the district to again remind administrators of the directive.
"Department staff has contacted the district to reiterate our directive to cease the testing and utilization of facial recognition technology until further notice," spokesperson JP O'Hare wrote in an email.
Asked for her response to the directive, Superintendent Michelle Bradley said "we're going to continue to work interactively with the state education department."
Bradley said a photograph of Gosk was added to the Aegis facial recognition database for the test and that photograph has since been deleted.
Interim Police Chief Steven Preisch said the gun detection portion of NBC's report was taped on Aug. 29. The weapon that Stover used was a real handgun, but it was unloaded, Preisch added.
Since district administrators had announced their intentions to start testing the facial and object recognition system this past June, the state education department has directed them numerous times not to begin testing until they feel privacy has been properly protected. The directives note that state regulations to protect student data are currently being worked out.
The district used $1.4 million of the $4.2 million allocated to it through New York’s Smart Schools Bond Act to acquire and install one of the first facial and object recognition security systems in an American school. The system relies on the Aegis software suite created by Canadian-based SN Technologies.
The software works by using a database of flagged individuals and sending an alert to district personnel when a flagged person is detected on school property.
The software reportedly also will detect 10 types of guns.
State Assembly Member Monica Wallace has introduced a bill that would impose a moratorium on use of facial recognition systems and direct the state education department to study the issue further. The bill passed the Assembly but was not acted on in the Senate before the legislative session ended in June.