Students nationwide fight to 'Ban Facial Recognition' technology on campus

Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Fight for the Future, a nonprofit advocacy group in the area of digital rights, are working together to launch a campaign against colleges using biometric surveillance, also known as facial recognition.

According to EdScoop, the University of San Francisco implemented some of this technology in its dormitories in 2013 making the campus one of the pioneers in biometric surveillance in higher education. Although not yet commonplace, many facial recognition technology companies have their sights set on schools. CNET reported that at least two more California campuses have implemented facial recognition technology: Stanford University and the University of Southern California. 

But privacy advocates are now speaking out against the use of this technology, particularly on college campuses. 

[RELATED: UCCS secretly took photos of hundreds of students in facial recognition study]

“This type of invasive technology poses a profound threat to our basic liberties, civil rights, and academic freedom, schools that are already using this technology are conducting unethical experiments on their students. Students and staff have a right to know if their administrations are planning to implement biometric surveillance on campus,” said Deputy Director of Fight for the Future Evan Greer. 

Greer is part of a nationwide campaign called Ban Facial Recognition, encouraging individuals to take a stand. 

”Students, faculty, alumni, and community members are signing petitions calling for a complete ban on the non-personal use of facial recognition on their campus,” Fight for the Future said, adding that “student groups are organizing to introduce student government resolutions to ban facial recognition.”

[RELATED: Penn State decides its 2,000 surveillance cameras not enough, spending $1.4 million to install more]

Erica Darragh, a board member at Students for Sensible Drug Policy, is also a supporter of the Ban Facial Recognition campaign.

“Students should not have to trade their right to privacy for an education, and no one should be forced to unwittingly participate in a surveillance program which will likely include problematic elements of law enforcement,” Darragh said. 

Campus Reform reached out to Greer and Darragh for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

In a statement to Campus Reform, USC said, “The safety of our campus community is a top priority for USC. Video surveillance is an important element of helping keep our community safe. Campus police do not use facial recognition technology. Our residence halls use both student IDs and biometric technology to ensure no one who isn’t authorized to enter those buildings have access. The vast majority of students choose fingerprint technology, while some choose facial recognition technology. The facial recognition system doesn’t store data or provide analytics.”

Campus Reform also reached out to the University of San Francisco and Stanford but neither responded in time for publication. 

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