The legislation will place a moratorium on public and private schools purchasing or using biometric surveillance technology until July 2022 or until a study about its use in schools is completed.
Two companion bills were sent to Cuomo’s desk in July after they passed in New York’s state legislature. Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP) Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn noted that the law is the “first comprehensive ban on facial recognition” for kindergarten through 12th-grade schools in the country.
“We thank Governor Cuomo for signing this historic facial recognition ban into law,” Cahn said in a statement. “Facial recognition is biased and broken, and it has no place in the classroom.”
Cahn added: “This technology is documented to be more error-prone for Black and Latin/X students, compounding the human bias they face every day. We also call on New York to go further and permanently ban all government use of facial recognition.”
The study in New York will have the state Office of Information Technology and the State Education Department seek feedback from teachers, parents, school safety experts, security and data experts, and student privacy experts, Cuomo’s office said. Ultimately, the study will “address specific considerations outlined in the legislation, including the technology’s potential impact on student civil liberties and privacy and how the data collected would be used.”
The law was crafted and passed in the state’s legislature after Lockport Central School District activated an object and facial recognition system earlier this year. That decision prompted fierce criticism from the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and other advocacy groups.