BUFFALO, N.Y. — Legislation to temporarily halt schools from purchasing or implementing biometric security technology, like facial recognition software, overwhelmingly passed the state Assembly this legislative session.

  • Facial recognition moratorium didn't pass the state Senate
  • Wallace said her bill helped get a conversation started
  • Lockport debating whether to include suspended students in facial recognition database

However, the bill's sponsor Assemblywoman Monica Wallace, D-Lancaster, said it won't become law.

"There was a lot of activity this session and it just didn't get done in the Senate," she said. "I do expect us to take it up again when we get back in session."

Still, Wallace believes her proposal has at least for now achieved the desired effect.

"Given all the publicity and discussion that we have now about this and given my legislation, a lot of the other schools that were thinking about it or considering it, are in sort of a holding pattern to see what happens with this issue before they move forward which I think is very thoughtful of them to do that," she said.

While a number of schools are considering or in the process of implementing facial recognition technology funded through a state Smart Schools grant, the Lockport City School District is the furthest along in New York. The State Education Department has told Lockport to stop testing the software, but Wallace plans to ask State Ed to administratively institute a moratorium for all schools.

"I think by raising and elevating this conversation, now State Education and hopefully smart schools bond team has their antenna up on this and is going to be looking out for this and saying, ‘You know what, let's not authorize this. Let's not spend any more money until where we want to go as a state on this issue,’" she said.

Lockport is debating changing a policy which currently would include suspended students in its database used to flag people who shouldn't be in schools. The district said it will likely change the policy after NYSED expressed concern, but Wallace says the state should have uniform rules for issues like this one.

"One of the goals is to really establish statewide regulations at how that should be controlled and what kind of guidelines should be imposed on it," Wallace said.

She said if NYSED can successfully study the technology before next session, perhaps there won't be a need to push the legislation again.