Former students at the University of Colorado should be absolutely livid.
New reports this week indicate that a secret project on their campus in Colorado Springs was recording their faces without consent, all with the backing of the federal government.
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.
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The data, although recorded locally in Colorado, would be used on a national level thanks to the involvement of the US military.
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.
Boult’s research originally was intended to analyze facial-recognition algorithms to determine whether they were up to snuff for use by the U.S. Navy. But it turned out the technology wasn’t as efficient as the Navy wanted.
Ultimately, the project didn’t provide the level of accuracy that the Navy was requiring, but that hasn’t stopped privacy advocates from warning against the dangers of such technology.
Facial recognition software has been on a steady rise as of late, as algorithms push these programs to learn exponentially faster than they would have or could have decades ago. In places like China, the technology is used in conjunction with a social credit system that shames their citizens into obedience.
In the United States, however, such dystopian authoritarianism is protected, hopefully, by the 4th Amendment.
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