Arizona educators ponder face recognition

Arizona could be the first state in the country to launch a biometric-based system to try to catch registered sex offenders and missing children who end up on school property.

A pilot was recently launched at the Royal Palm Middle School in Maricopa County. Two face-scanning systems at the main entrance and school office will capture the facial images of everyone passing through and automatically compare them online with state and national databases of sex offenders, missing children and possible abductors.

When a possible match is made, the local sheriff's department will send officers to investigate.

Tom Horne, Arizona's education superintendent, supports the pilot and apparently vowed to seek funding for scanning systems, which cost up to $5,000 each, to be placed in each school in the state.

Hummingbird Defense Systems Inc., headquartered in Phoenix, provided a $350,000 grant to test the system at Royal Palm.

American Civil Liberties Union officials have challenged Arizona's system, arguing that the technology is prone to mistakes, violates the privacy of individuals and could lead to putting children and school staff in danger if police were to try to capture criminals on school property.

ACLU officials sent a letter to education officials asking for the Royal Palm cameras to be removed. However, officials at the Maricopa Sheriff's Department and local school district said the system would remain in place and operating until at least mid-March.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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