New legislation impacting industry

Oct. 5, 2023

Several recent pieces of legislation will impact the security industry, including most prominently, New York’s recent lifting of a biometric ban in schools, and California adopting a “right to repair” provision for legislation broadly applicable to manufacturers of electronic devices.

The latest New York legislation ends a nearly three-year ban on the use of biometric technologies in both public and private K-12 schools. “The Security Industry Association (SIA), along with industry partners and education officials in New York, raised concerns with legislators and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the unintended consequences of a blanket ban prohibiting applications that clearly benefit schools and students, versus addressing specific use cases of concern,” explains SIA’s Senior Director of Government Relations Jake Parker, who noted that one direct result is a final measure to include an exclusion for use of fingerprint technology in conducting background checks on prospective K-12 employees.

The lift on the blanket ban now leaves it up to schools and districts to determine appropriate uses of biometric technologies. “It is expected this will end disruptions to school operations aided by biometric technologies, as more than 40 New York school districts had reported utilization prior to the ban according to the department’s survey,” says Parker. “This includes widely accepted applications for identity verification for student account access, transportation check-in, food service accounts, medication administration and other purposes, as well as safeguarding access to secure areas, logging staff time and attendance, among others.”

The exception in lifting the ban is facial recognition technology, which continues to be prohibited, as it has since 2020, although school districts continue to show interest in using the technology for security. SIA and others in the industry continue to work to get lawmakers to understand the value of the technology when it is implemented in a responsible, transparent and effective way for security, which is acknowledged by experts in the school safety field. The PASS Guidelines for K-12 Safety and Security, for example, describe legitimate use cases for the technology in access control and visitor screening.

Moving over to the other piece of legislation of interest to security, California recently became the third and largest U.S. state to adopt “right to repair” legislation broadly applicable to manufacturers of electronic devices. Notably, all states enacting “right to repair” legislation so far – New York, Minnesota and, with the governor’s potential signature, California – have included provisions that exclude security products, which is critically important to understand for those working within security in other states that may be thinking of adopting similar policies without this key provision.

The California bill’s measures specifically exclude alarm and fire protection systems, which cover electronic products provided by security and life safety manufacturers. While such products were not intended to be targeted, the lack of specific exclusions in the measure originally introduced would have put the functional integrity and cybersecurity of security and life safety systems, and the lives of those who depend on them, at risk by forcing manufacturers to make sensitive technical information and other means of compromising systems broadly available, according to SIA.