Students Organize to Keep Facial Recognition off Campus

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Across the country today, students, alums, and faculty took action to defend their campuses from the aggressive marketing onslaught of facial recognition companies.

Their message was simple, and backed by 150+ faculty and 40+ civil society groups like the ACLU, FreedomWorks, and Color of Change: facial recognition on campus makes everyone less safe. It should be banned.

Here are our top five favorite moments from this national day of action.

1. Oakland Community College’s Panel Changed Minds

Oakland Community College’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter organized a panel ahead of the action day, because their spring break is this week. Lawyers from the ACLU of Michigan and Detroit Justice Center spoke for over an hour on the wide impact facial recognition might have on the educational environment.

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Panel speakers and Sarah Noon at Oakland Community College in Michigan

Sarah Noon, the organizer of the panel who is set to graduate this spring, said that the words of the panelists changed people’s minds, “even the administration.”

Sarah’s panel happened only because of her own bravery, and with help from the ACLU of Michigan, the Detroit Justice Center, and Fight for the Future. Her campus sought to violate the first amendment rights of her organization by cancelling this panel without cause, and denying their student government a symbolic vote on the issue of facial recognition. Students fought back with the support of FFTF and the ACLU of Michigan, and the school made a 180––a big win for free speech AND the fight against facial recognition.

2. Students painted their faces and wore masks to gather petition signatures at Kent State University and University of North Georgia Oconee

Students at Kent State University and University of North Georgia Oconee tabled all day to collect petition signatures and raise awareness on the issue. They wore masks, painted faces, and showed that resisting the erosion of our civil liberties can also be fun.

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Students painting their faces in ways that would fool facial recognition algorithms at Kent State University

They likely got the idea from Dekaylee and Rachel, these rad drag artists who made a video promoting the day of action with “instructions” for doing wild makeup looks that fool facial recognition.

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Students tabling at Kent State University
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Brooke Trogdon and a friend pose with banner on the campus of a rainy University of North Georgia Oconee

3. Dominique Coronel, a student at DePaul University, and a first generation Mexican-American college student, delivered letters in solidarity with the most vulnerable in society.

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Dominique Coronel after delivering open letters in support of a facial recognition ban.

4. Students at Yale rally and present a letter to the president, plan to push for city-wide ban in New Haven

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Sean O’Brien with students and colleagues outside the president’s office at Yale.

Students, faculty, and members of the Yale Privacy Lab gathered and presented a letter to the administration. They also announced plans to organize for a ban facial recognition on a city-wide level in New Haven.

5. The Boston Teachers Union comes out swinging against face surveillance in schools

Boston Teachers Union represents more than 10,000 teachers in the Boston area. They tweeted their support for the day of action, the first public statement from a teachers union (that we know of) opposing facial recognition surveillance in schools. That’s a big deal!

6. “Oberlin College does not currently use nor is it currently considering the use of facial recognition systems.”

In response to the letter delivery at Oberlin, an alumna received an email stating that the campus has no plans to use the technology, joining over 60 other campuses like Harvard, MIT, and UCLA.

Our scorecard is working, and over 500 emails have been sent to administrators at campuses that are or may be planning to use facial recognition across the country on the action day alone.

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Image of the scorecard from BanFacialRecognition.com/campus

Letters have also been delivered to American University, University of Georgia, University of Oregon, and Western Kentucky University, with more action days planned once students finish their finals and return from spring break.

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We believe there's hardly anything as important as ensuring that our shared future has freedom of expression and creativity at its core.

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