College Professor Photographed Unaware Students for Government Facial Recognition Project

A professor at the University of Colorodo – Colorado Springs is under fire after he photographed 1700 teachers and students as part of a federal government-backed program to “enhance facial recognition technology,” according to The Denver Post.

Professor Torrence Boult, Endowed Chair of Innovation and Security and Professor of Computer Science at the school, was responsible for the project.

The Orwellian program, called “UnConstrained College Students,” is described as “a dataset of long-range surveillance photos captured at University of Colorado Colorado Springs developed primarily for research and development of ‘face detection and recognition research towards surveillance applications.’ According to the authors of two papers associated with the dataset, over 1,700 students and pedestrians were ‘photographed using a long-range high-resolution surveillance camera without their knowledge.'”

The project, carried out six years ago, is raising privacy concerns.

“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,” according to The Denver Post. 

Boult defended his work, which was originally commissioned by the U.S. Navy.

He said:

“It was solved if you wanted to match two passport photos where the person is facing forward in good light, but not if you wanted to recognize someone 100 meters away.

The study is trying to make facial recognition better, especially at long range or surveillance applications. We wanted to collect a dataset of people acting naturally in public because that’s the way people are trying to use facial recognition.”


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