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University of Michigan study: Ban facial recognition technology in schools

Study cites heightened risk of racism, less privacy, lack of regulation

An assortment of security cameras
An assortment of security cameras (WDIV)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Facial recognition technology should not be in schools, according to a new study out of the University of Michigan.

Conducted at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, authors of the “Cameras in the Classroom” report recommend that the technology be banned from use in schools.

The study highlights that facial recognition, typically used for security purposes to identify or verify individuals, would undermine individual privacy and “disproportionately burden people of color, women, people with disabilities, and trans and gender non-conforming people.”

Related: Innocent Metro Detroit man arrested after facial recognition software identified wrong man

While the technology could be used to track students or maintain records of attendance, the report says that using facial recognition in this manner could result in normalizing surveillance, marginalize students and erode privacy.

The report states that use of facial recognition in schools would potentially exacerbate existing racial bias as facial recognition algorithms have higher inaccuracy rates with people of color. It states that students of color could be more negatively impacted by surveillance and misidentification.

Citing the use of CCTV and identifying systems in the United Kingdom and India, the report states that students are more likely to suffer negative psychological and social effects if surveillance is normalized. The study noted the marginalization of nonconforming students, commodifying data and a lack of regulation were additional factors in banning facial recognition in schools.

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Although the report recommends a complete ban, in an executive summary authors of the report state that if schools must use the technology, its usage must be deliberate and “with a clear regulatory framework that considers the social, ethical, racial, and economic dimensions of the technology—far more than the technology’s accuracy.”

The study provides 15 policy recommendations at the school, state and national levels.

“Cameras in the Classroom: Facial Recognition Technology in Schools” is a part of the U-M Ford School’s Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program Technology Assessment Project, a think-tank that works to understand the implications of emerging technology and provide evidence-based insight for policy development.

Find out the full report and a summary here.

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