Is facial recognition needed for school security?
Thursday, October 11, 2018
The unfortunate increase in school shootings across the country has thrust the school security debate into the spotlight. Parents, teachers, administrators, and the government are concerned about security and safety of all present at school premises.
A Seattle-based company, RealNetworks, recently made headlines in this regard. It has introduced facial recognition technology to increase security at one Seattle school as a part of a preliminary service experiment. The experiment has fueled a fierce debate about privacy concerns.
As a part of the preliminary outreach, RealNetworks offered the technology free to K-12 schools to improve school security. The goal is that this system will seamlessly reduce the need for someone inside the school to answer a buzzer, identify a parent or guardian’s face and manage entry/exit points.
Participating schools and parents feel that this is a positive step forward to increased school safety. They feel that their kids are safer with smart systems like these at work.
Parents at the University Child Development School, a private elementary school, seem to have liked the idea and gave consent for the system to be installed. When interviewed and asked about their choices, they said that they trust this smart system, and feel that they and their children are safer this way.
When given the option of adding their face to the database, parents readily gave their consent. Now the technology acts as the automatic doorman for the school, allowing parents and staff members access as approved by the database.
How does the technology work?
The technology is called Secure, Accurate Facial Recognition, or SAFR, pronounced "safer." It has taken the company three years to develop this technology to perform to near-perfect accuracy. It has used 8 million faces and over 8 billion data points to fine-tune its performance.
The convenient technology recognizes a parent's face by the camera mounted at specific entry points.
Detractors are not convinced. The cost of implementation is high and quite a deterrent for school districts. The installation at a private school is hardly a sound example to apply innumerable cash-strapped public schools in the country.
It remains to be seen whether the technology will become more affordable for public schools in the future.
School security is a serious issue but whether all parents will be comfortable about tracking their and their children’s faces remains to be seen. It is troubling when it comes to schoolchildren since the risk of hacks remains high.
Critics say that they are unsure of the benefits of the facial recognition system in K-12 education, but they do know that the cost of damage to privacy is quite high.
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