Fayette County Public Schools, a 24-school commune in Georgia, reopened its classroom doors last month. As at many schools around the country, admiral in Fayette have apropos about safely bringing acceptance back to school amid a communicable — and they’re axis to surveillance technology for help.

The school commune afresh made a deal to acquirement up to 75 cameras able with thermal imaging. The cameras, made by Hikvision, a Chinese provider of facial acceptance tools and other surveillance equipment, cost $7,000 each and rapidly appraisal temperatures to adviser abeyant viral spread on school grounds. The adeptness to bound scan for a sign of the virus is an adorable option for schools, one that’s potentially faster and safer than manually taking each visitor’s temperature.

“The Hikvision cameras will only be used to admeasurement an individual’s temperature to help annihilate the spread of COVID-19 and other bacilli that may cause fever,” Melinda Berry-Dreisbach, a agent for the commune said in an email to The Markup.

The measure, she said, was a applied way to test for animated temperature when acceptance and staff enter a school. Berry-Dreisbach said the cameras will not be used for facial acceptance or other automatic identification purposes, and temperature readings will be stored on the school’s local arrangement and eventually deleted.

Hikvision, like some other tech firms, is business its articles anon to schools, while announcement “value-added choices,” like automatic mask apprehension and face identification.

But is this surveillance technology useful at preventing an outbreak? Aloofness advocates say no—and also worry that big-ticket technology installed during the communicable could be used to track acceptance long after it subsides.

Albert Fox Cahn, controlling administrator of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project and a host of the podcast “Surveillance and the City,” said the ability of temperature checks is far from proven and that adulterated people may be asymptomatic or presymptomatic.

Surveillance tools, he said, are “a costly aberration from evidence-based public health measures” like acquaintance archetype and social distancing.

Fox Cahn says he understands the allure of the technologies for school districts.

“You have this bearings where people are faced with absurd choices,” Fox Cahn said. “Either trying to accommodate apprenticeship accidentally or trying to invest huge sums in manual acquaintance archetype and really akin measures.”

“Technology firms offer this acutely absurd option,” he said. But for him, it’s just that — not credible.

Schools have long flirted with surveilling acceptance — but it could become commonplace

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts were axis to surveillance technologies, often in the name of advocacy campus aegis by tracking visitors or apprehension weapons or angry truancy. One New York State school commune began experimenting with facial acceptance technology before state legislators hit pause on the program, and dozens of schools have started to use Bluetooth area tracking.

But the communicable has brought a new wave of interest. The Wall Street Journal afresh appear on an AI-powered Motorola annual for audition mask acquiescence on video. Other schools are giving acceptance wearables for tracking whom they come in acquaintance with, or alms COVID-screening apps.

Last month, TechCrunch appear that acceptance at Albion College, a advanced arts school in Michigan, would be appropriate to use a contact-tracing app. The app tracks acceptance movements in real time. Using the app is binding during school hours, and acceptance could face antidotal action for not complying. (A “FAQ” sheet from Albion says admiral will only use “location data for [contact] archetype in the event of a absolute test.”)

Schools continuing remote acquirements also have a slate of surveillance technologies to acquirement — including software that provides remote proctoring services, ecology acceptance as they take tests, or automatically tracking appointment and attendance.

The technology may sound useful but can be a “blunt tool” 

Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy administrator of the Liberty and Civic Aegis Affairs at the Brennan Center for Justice, says software like area tracking can be “a pretty blunt tool”— not article that gives you the full picture.

An app that tells you whether you came within six feet of addition diagnosed with COVID-19 may not accommodate proper context—like if there was a wall of glass amid you, she said. Similarly, the app might not be able to tell whether you were cutting a mask or face shield, or whether you were central or outdoors.

Cameras or tracking tools might also be installed during the pandemic, Levinson-Waldman said, but there’s no agreement they won’t stay in schools far longer and wind up being used for article beyond their antecedent purposes. The technology could eventually be used to adviser for truancy or other antidotal infractions, or even accommodate data to law enforcement.

Regardless of how the data is advised to be used, Levinson-Waldman said, the advice calm can be abnormally personal.

“You’re accepting into really acute issues if you’re anecdotic things like when are acceptance in the bathroom, because that advice gets more and more intimate,” she said.

A report appear this month by the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project says any technologies adopted during communicable school reopenings should take into annual abeyant data hacking and other abrupt uses of data, as well as students’ right to aloofness from administrators, police, and even their parents.

“Persistent area ecology of schoolchildren risks acceptable yet addition facet of the school-to-prison pipeline,” the report said, “providing law administration with aberrant tracking capabilities for ecology accouchement of color.”

Some schools are doing without 

There are schools absorption their efforts on more acceptable testing and archetype methods. Duke University, for example, uses a “pool-testing” system that involves testing five samples at once. Other colleges have taken a agnate approach.

At the University of Arizona, academy admiral are testing dorm wastewater for signs of the virus and say they afresh prevented a larger beginning through the process. After a water sample from one dorm came back absolute for the virus in August, admiral tested anybody in the architecture and found two adulterated acceptance who were then quarantined.

Public schools in New York City plan to about test 10% of acceptance and agents to adviser for the virus as schools reopen. In Los Angeles, school admiral appear a plan last month to test 700,000 acceptance in the coming months.

But those programs take abundant money and assets — making them, after added federal help, out of reach for many schools.

There’s a need for “a civic advance in able acquaintance archetype by culturally competent acquaintance tracers from the community,” and to have them distinctively accomplished for alive with kids, Fox Cahn, of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, said.

Ultimately, he said, he trusts the humans to anticipate outbreaks more than the machines.

“All of the questions that a acquiescent acquaintance tracer would ask to analyze someone’s abeyant risk of acknowledgment are missing from these sorts of mass tracking systems,” he said.