Apr. 11, 2024

Keeping Facial Recognition Tech Out of Schools

Without a question, schools should be safe places where Pennsylvania students can learn and grow. As adults, it is our obligation to think a few steps ahead of growing trends, foreseeing pitfalls and avoiding them.

Understanding that obligation, I am introducing legislation that keeps biometric technology, commonly referred to as facial recognition, out of Pennsylvania schools. This technology is a growing tool that uses an automated or semi-automated process to verify an individual’s identity based on their biometric features.

Essentially, this technology electronically measures and evaluates physical or behavioral characteristics for the purpose of recognizing an individual. Things evaluated can include facial geometry, fingerprints, handprints, retina and iris patterns, DNA sequencing, voice and movement.

I have several concerns with this technology being used in schools. From a security standpoint, my first concern is where this information is going to be stored and who will have access to it.

If the purpose of using this technology is to determine if someone entering a school should be granted access, that means that a scan of someone’s face is going to be compared to with some previously stored information.

But how secure is the storage of this information? Who will have access to it?

Most computer experts agree that sensitive information storage requires continual monitoring and even still, it is vulnerable to hacking and misuse.

Unfortunately, we hear somewhat regularly of companies that experience computer attacks and whose customers are told to change their passwords immediately. But, unlike a password or credit card number, biometric data cannot be changed if there is a security breach.

Additionally, significant questions remain about the accuracy of this technology. Putting systems in place to make significant decisions or limit building access, based on error-prone technology, jeopardizes student safety. A false reading could then lead to a child being unnecessarily questioned by school officials, potentially causing a traumatic confrontation or being denied access to school. 
On a different note, I participated in a hearing and press conference convened by the House Republican Policy Committee to highlight the vital role of Pennsylvania’s energy industry.

The topic was the growing demand for liquified natural gas (LNG) and the negative implications of the Biden administration’s efforts to halt new exportation.

LNG is a critical component to Pennsylvania’s energy industry. As coal burning power plants are going offline, there is a growing concern by PJM Interconnection, which distributes power to Pennsylvania energy companies, that demand is increasing while supply is decreasing.

With the right policies in place, we can address the concern of a decreasing power supply, as well as grow our economy by allowing the extraction and exportation of natural gas. Natural gas-fueled power plants can address the vacancy of closed coal-fueled energy plants. Coupled with making LNG available for export, Pennsylvania can experience a significant economic boost. 

In the United States, Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of natural gas, following Texas. Globally, the demand for LNG is on the rise, and this increased use of LNG is having a positive impact on the environment. According to an economic impact report published by the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, 500 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions were reduced since 2010 because of natural gas use. 

Already, natural gas is an important part of Pennsylvania’s economy. It was responsible for over $41 billion in economic activity in 2022 and last year, boosted the Commonwealth’s GDP by nearly $25 billion. The average income for someone employed in the natural gas industry is $97,000.

The potential for job growth and economic development that comes with natural gas and LNG is immeasurable. But to take full advantage of these possibilities, we must pursue policies that allow natural gas to be safely extracted, transmitted and exported. 
Here are some additional news topics and reminders I would like to share.

Scam Alert! PA Turnpike Alerts E-ZPass Users of Phishing Scam - If you receive an unsolicited text or email suggesting it is from the Pennsylvania Turnpike, E-ZPass or another toll agency, DO NOT click on the link. 

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is warning E-ZPass users of a phishing scam that is attempting to obtain personal financial information to settle outstanding toll amounts. The text purports to be from “Pa Turnpike Toll Services.” 
E-ZPass account holders should use approved safe methods to check their accounts, such as the official PA Turnpike E-ZPass website or the PA Toll Pay app.

Those who receive a fraudulent text should file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov, which is a site dedicated to sharing information on Internet crimes across law enforcement agencies.

Clean Up During ‘Pick Up Pennsylvania’ -The Pennsylvania departments of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Transportation (PennDOT) are encouraging residents, local leaders, businesses and organizations to join in cleaning up their communities as part of the “Pick Up Pennsylvania” spring community improvement campaign, now through May 31.

Pick Up Pennsylvania is a year-long initiative; however, events scheduled through May 31 receive free trash bags, gloves and safety vests provided by support from DEP, PennDOT and Keep America Beautiful, as supplies last.

Events may include litter cleanups, illegal dump cleanups, community greening and beautification, special collections and litter education events. Events must be registered at keeppabeautiful.org to receive free cleanup supplies. 

Last year, the Pick Up Pennsylvania initiative welcomed more than 71,000 volunteers who disposed of more than 2.9 million pounds of trash; cleaned 8,462 miles of road and waterways; and planted more than 8,000 trees, flowers and other greens.

Representative Jill Cooper
55th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jordan Frei
jillCooper.com / Facebook.com/RepJillCooper