Facial Recognition in Schools

September 2019 - August 2020


Facial recognition (FR) technology was long considered science fiction, but it is now part of everyday life for people all over the world. FR systems identify or verify an individual’s identity based on a digitized image alone, and are commonly used for identity verification, security, and surveillance in a variety of settings including law enforcement, commerce, and transportation. Schools have also begun to use it to track students and visitors for a range of uses, from automating attendance to school security. FR can be used to identify people in photos, videos, and in real time, and is usually framed as more efficient and accurate than other forms of identity verification. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that it will erode individual privacy and disproportionately burden people of color, women, people with disabilities, and trans and gender non-conforming people.

In this project, we focused on the use of facial recognition in schools because it was not yet widespread and because it would impact particularly vulnerable populations. Through an iterative process, we developed historical case studies of similar technologies, analyzed their social, economic, and political impacts, and produced recommendations for policymakers and stakeholders.

We strongly recommend that use of FR be banned in schools.

Recent Impact: In its 2023 report on the benefits and harms of facial recognition technology in K-12 schools, New York state’s Office of Information Technology Services cited STPP's report on the topic. As it considered not only accuracy but also the likelihood that the technology would exacerbate bias and harm against already marginalized communities, the report referred to our findings that the use of facial recognition technology in schools would normalize a constant state of surveillance, as they have with the use of closed circuit television in the UK. The state legislature banned this use in response to the Office of Information Technology Services's report. 

About TAP

STPP's Technology Assessment Project (TAP) is a research-intensive think tank dedicated to anticipating the implications of emerging technologies and using these insights to develop better technology policies. It uses an analogical case study approach to analyze the social, economic, ethical, equity, and political dimensions of emerging technologies. 


Watch the webinar with Cameras in the Classroom authors

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