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CU Colorado Springs students secretly photographed for government-backed facial-recognition research

Posted at 2:26 PM, May 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-27 20:36:02-04

A professor at the University of Colorado’s Colorado Springs campus led a project that secretly snapped photos of more than 1,700 students, faculty members and others walking in public more than six years ago in an effort to enhance facial-recognition technology.

The photographs were posted online as a dataset that could be publicly downloaded from 2016 until this past April.

While professor Terrance Boult and CU officials defended the project and its efforts to protect student privacy, a University of Denver law professor questioned whether this is an example of technological advancement crossing ethical boundaries.

“It’s yet another area where we’re seeing privacy intrusions that disturb us,” said Bernard Chao, who teaches the intersection of law and technology at DU and previously practiced law in Silicon Valley for almost 20 years.

The CU Colorado Springs project, first reported last week by the Colorado Springs Independent, began in 2012 with funding from a variety of U.S. intelligence and military operations, including the Office of Naval Research, Special Operations Command and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It was not clear how much funding the project received from government agencies.

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