US schools are buying expensive surveillance tech to monitor COVID-19 spread

Why sprinkling money over the problem will only make it worse.

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A school district made a deal to purchase upto 75 thermal imaging cameras, worth $7000 each.

Hickvision, a Chinese provider of facial recognition tools and surveillance equipment, is marketing it's products directly to schools who are trying to figure out how to monitor COVID spread as schools reopen.

it's over complicated.

Surveillance tech is a costly distraction from the evidence based health measures”

Albert Fox Cahn, Surveillance Technology Oversight Project.

The fundamentals of fighting COVID-19 are simple (not easy) — Contact Tracing and Social Distancing.

But humans tend to keep making simple problems artificially complex — or worse, throw money into it.

Thermal imaging cameras are a similar complex solution. And like all artificially complex solutions, it has little evidence to support it.

accuracy of temperature checks

Albert Fox Cahn, host of the podcast Surveillance and the City, said that efficiency of temperature checks are far from proven and that infected people might be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic.

sprinkling money over it will only make it worse.

The second characteristics of artificially complex solution is someone making a business out of it.

Weight loss apps are a brilliant example. Fundamental, simple but hard solution is having a proper diet and exercising daily but artificially complex solution are these apps.

Here, Hickvision is incentivised to make this problem look complex and push you to throw money to make it simpler.

post-COVID privacy

After the pandemic, Hickvision will not take these cameras back. Privacy advocates argue that cameras installed now will remain long after the virus subsides.

These very personal data can be misused or hacked. It can potentially deny the right to privacy to schoolchildren.

Although schools denied to use these cameras for face recognition, Hickvision sells mask detection and face identification as “value-added features”.

Persistent location monitoring of schoolchildren risks becoming yet another facet of school-to-prison pipeline.”

The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project


Based on: The Markup's “Schools Are Buying Up Surveillance Technology to Fight COVID-19

Related: Nat Eliason'sDecomplication: How to Find Simple Solutions to “Hard” Problems