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How would digital facial recognition affect inclusion at your school?

| September 14, 2018 | 0 Comments

Over the past two years, American company RealNetworks Inc., a provider of internet streaming media delivery software and services based in Seattle, Washington, in the US, has developed a facial recognition tool to be used in schools.

The tool is intended to assist school authorities authorise who gets inside schools. The company’s website is where school authorities can download the SAFR tool free and integrate it with their own security systems. The system is currently being tested at University Child Development School (UCDS) in Seattle, Washington. The tool was the brainchild of parent and technology wizard Rob Glaser, who was concerned about school shootings and gun control issues. Now the facial recognition tool has put him at the centre of a new debate over how to balance privacy and security. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international non-profit digital rights group based in San Francisco, California, has stated that the tool is frequently faulty; misidentifying black people and women at higher rates than any other group. Some of the employees at global giant Amazon have expressed discomfort with the tool used by that company, called Rekognition. Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, recently called for industry regulation, saying: “This technology can catalogue your photos, help reunite families or potentially be misused and abused by private companies and public authorities alike. This isn’t just sci-fi. This is becoming something we, as a society, have to talk about.” It all boils down to the overpolicing of children, say those who oppose a school in Lockport, New York, which has said it plans to spend millions of dollars on facial recognition technology to monitor its students. The New York Civil Liberties Union and the Legal Defence Fund have also spoken out, saying that the use of such technology may amplify bias towards students of colour. Each face identified by the SAFR system is marked with an encrypted hash and stored on the school’s servers. Schools that opt in to use the tool are not required to adhere to specific terms and conditions when it comes to implementing the technology. That’s problematic, say critics. The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) Legal Defence and Educational Fund, Inc. based in New York City, says schools could, for instance, use facial recognition technology to monitor who’s associating with whom and discipline students differently as a result. Glaser is the first to admit that there may be glitches in the system at this stage. He says that RealNetworks hasn’t tested whether the tool is as good at recognising black and brown faces as it is at recognising white ones. He was loath to have the software proactively predict ethnicity, the way it predicts age and gender, for fear of it being used for racial profiling. While critics have been quick to step in and predict negative outcomes, the real argument, say others, is whether facial recognition in schools will be of any real help. Experts opine that it would not have stopped any of the school shootings committed thus far. Glaser welcomes the debate. “The people who care about these issues need to get involved, not just as hand-wringers but as people trying to provide solutions,” he says.

Category: Spring 2018

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