A computer analyzing a female face as part of facial recognition in schools.

Is facial recognition in schools reassuring–or invasive?

School leaders are grappling with the pros and cons of upgrading to top-of-the-line facial recognition in schools

In the wake of all-too-common school shootings, school and district leaders are confronted with decisions about how to prevent–or respond to–violent incidents. Some are turning to facial recognition in schools as a way to track visitors and keep schools safe.

Technology is a double-edged sword, and it’s no different when applied to school security. Some argue that advanced emotion-detecting AI technologies and facial recognition in schools infringe on privacy and can’t always identify people correctly or aid in prevention, while others see the technologies as yet another tool to keep students and educators safe.

Schools in Florida’s Broward County plan to use an experimental surveillance system in order to boost safety and security efforts in a district now known for the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 were killed.

The AI-powered system from Avigilon is a combination of cameras and software and can be used to track people based on their appearance, according to news reports.

Read more: 5 new developments in physical and network safety

In July, RealNetworks announced that it would make SAFR for K-12, its AI and machine learning based facial recognition solution, available for free to K-12 schools.

The SAFR system uses existing IP-based cameras and readily available hardware to recognize staff, students, and visitors in real time. Company representatives say the system encrypts all facial data and images to ensure privacy, and all facial data and images remain exclusively within the school’s domain as part of, or complementary to, an existing school ID system.

St. Therese Catholic Academy in Seattle is well into its first year of a pilot using SAFR.

Laura Ascione

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