IN JUNE, THE school board in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, was facing a series of votes on the budget for an elaborate and expensive reopening plan. Among the big-ticket items was a tablet designed to screen students and staff for fevers. The devices were sold by a company named OneScreen, which supplies schools with technology including “smart” whiteboards and attendance apps. But this spring, it had pivoted. Its new product, called GoSafe, could scan foreheads for elevated temperatures and detect when students aren’t wearing masks. It also came with a bonus: “top-of-the-line” facial recognition, as a local vendor described it to the school board.
District officials considered this a selling point. The tablets were pricey—$161,000 for 71 devices—even amid the district’s bulk orders of hand sanitizer and protective equipment. But they would get kids through school doors more efficiently than handheld thermometers. The facial recognition tech offered another benefit: The money would not necessarily go to waste as soon as there was a Covid-19 vaccine. The district could use the devices for other things, like taking attendance or preventing intruders... see more