Activist Groups Want Facial Recognition Banned on College Campuses

Fight for the Future and Students for Sensible Drug Policy contend facial recognition poses a threat to students’ basic liberties and academic freedom.

BOSTON — Digital rights group Fight for the Future is collaborating with Students for Sensible Drug Policy to launch a nationwide effort to ban facial recognition technology from university campuses across the United States.

The two groups jointly announced Tuesday a new website and toolkit for student groups across the U.S. as part of their advocacy campaign. Their message: facial recognition technology decreases security on campuses, and opens up a pandora’s box of privacy, civil liberties and equity issues.

“Facial recognition surveillance spreading to college campuses would put students, faculty, and community members at risk. This type of invasive technology poses a profound threat to our basic liberties, civil rights, and academic freedom,” says Evan Greer, deputy director, Fight for the Future. “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.”

The groups will partner to secure commitments from administrations and work with student groups to pass student government resolutions.

At campuses around the country, including George Washington in the District of Columbia and DePaul in Chicago, student groups are organizing to introduce student government resolutions to ban facial recognition, according to the announcement. A dozen major university administrations including Stanford, Harvard and Northwestern have been contacted to clarify if they are using the technology, the announcement states.

“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,” says Erica Darragh, a board member at Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

The effort is part of Fight for the Future’s broader campaign, which is said to be endorsed by more than 30 major grassroots civil rights organizations including Greenpeace, Color of Change, Daily Kos, United We Dream, Council on American Islamic Relations, MoveOn and Free Press.

Other grassroots efforts by Fight for the Future to halt facial recognition have proven successful.

Last fall, live entertainment giants AEG Presents and Live Nation each disavowed any plans to use the technology at music festivals, despite earlier indications to the contrary. For the time being, the concert promoters relinquished plans to scan festivalgoers with the technology after musicians and others joined to express their opposition.

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About the Author


Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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