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Schools can now get free facial recognition software to track students

Schools can now get free facial recognition software to track students
[Photo: Fancycrave/Unsplash]

Hide and seek could take on new meaning if schools take RealNetworks up on this offer.

The company is offering K-12 learning institutions free facial recognition software that can be downloaded via its websiteTechnology Review reports. The software is called SAFR, and according to a press release, it uses IP-based cameras and other hardware to “recognize staff, students, and visitors in real time to help improve school safety.” It also promises to “streamlin[e] entry, record keeping, campus monitoring, and guest check-in.”

The tech is currently being tested at a school in Seattle (specifically, the school that the founder’s kids attend) where kids can unlock a gate by smiling at a surveillance camera—which may sound chilling to anyone who has read Nineteen Eighty-Four. It will reportedly be piloted in the state of Wyoming later this year.

In the absence of reasonable gun control laws, the program is meant to improve safety in schools by allowing for real-time monitoring. However, facial recognition tech in general—and for kids in school in particular—is a growing area of concern for privacy advocates and parents alike. After it was reported that Western New York’s Lockport School District would be introducing “the invasive and error-prone technology,” the New York Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the New York State Education Department urging it to consider students’ and teachers’ privacy.

“Students should think of schools as a safe place to learn,” the ACLU wrote. “They should not worry that their every move is being monitored or that their pictures could end up in a law or immigration enforcement database simply because they came to class.”

It’s not just privacy rights advocates: Last week, Microsoft revealed in a blog post that it is asking Congress to regulate AI-powered face recognition software.

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