American summer camps using facial recognition technology to send updates of 'happy kids' to parents

Rozina Sabur
Hundreds of US camps are thought to be employing the technology - Digital Vision

American summer camps are reportedly using facial recognition software to allow parents to receive daily updates on their children's wellbeing.

Residential camps are a traditional part of the summer for many American kids, with outdoor activities and sports featuring heavily in the campers' programmes.

But in a twist to the historically rustic nature of the summer programmes, many camps have now begun using facial-recognition software to enable parents to monitor how their children are faring. 

Hundreds of camps across the country are believed to using the technology this summer, which works by identifying individual children from a distance and sending email or text picture updates to their parents. 

One such camp, Camp Echo in upstate New York, sends as many as ten notifications a day according to parents.

One parent, David Hiller, told the Washington Post that he received notifications whenever his two daughters are photographed doing things like going water-skiing or making a new friend during their seven-week stay at the camp. He said Camp Echo alerts him and his wife almost instantly whenever it uploads its tranche of at least 1,000 pictures a day for parents.

The traditionally outdoor-focused camps have been given a modern addition Credit: Getty

Despite the individual facial-recognition alerts, Mr Hiller said he and his wife end up looking through most of the camp's uploaded images, just in case. “I love it. I wish I was with them,” he told the Washington Post. “But I at least feel like I know what they’re doing.”

One technology company, Bunk1, works with camps to offer features including digital photo galleries which can be powered by facial-recognition software. "Tagging campers in photos can be a tedious chore. With Bunk1’s facial recognition software, parents can be automatically notified when photos of their children are uploaded," its website states. 

The company said the services request the parents' permission before scanning pictures and its privacy policy states that it does not collect any information from anyone under the age of 13.

However not everyone is quite so taken with the novel concept. The use of facial-recognition software has caused unease among privacy advocates who warn that such images are often captured without the subject's knowledge or consent.  

There is currently no national law regulating its use, however San Francisco became the first US city to ban the use of facial-recognition software in public spaces in May, soon followed by  Somerville in Massachusetts and Oakland, California.

US regulators have also recently announced that they are considering updating online privacy protection laws for children in light of the growing use of new technologies such as facial recognition.