China, others used Duke surveillance video to improve facial recognition tech, Duke Chronicle report

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This Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015 photo shows Duke Chapel in Durham, N.C. On Thursday, just days after announcing that a traditional Muslim call to prayer would echo from the historic chapel tower, Duke University changed course after being bombarded with calls and emails objecting to the plan. Instead, Muslims will gather for their call to […]

A Duke University study recorded thousands of students’ faces as they walked around campus in 2014 – and the footage was then used by China and others to test facial recognition technology, according to an article from Duke’s newspaper, The Chronicle.

The recordings and their likenesses were put into a data set that was “placed on a public website, and [was] downloaded by academics, security contractors and military researchers around the globe,” the article states.

The footage was used to test and improve facial recognition technology that was mostly used for either private or public security purposes, The Chronicle says.

The data set has been linked to China and their use of facial technology to monitor ethnic minorities there, according to The Chronicle.

A Financial Times investigation exposed Microsoft’s facial recognition database, which included the Duke data set. The database had more than 10 million images of around 100,000 people.

The data set and the project’s Duke website were removed back in April after the Financial Times investigation, The Chronicle reports.

The investigation revealed that the Duke data was “one of the most popular pedestrian recognition training sets.”

CBS17 reached out to Duke University for comment and received the following statement:

“News media reports in April alerted the university to existence of a database of images from a faculty research project that was available on the Duke website.  The university immediately undertook a review of the situation and determined that the data on the website was neither collected nor made available to the public consistent with the terms of the study that had been approved by the Institutional Review Board, which oversees all research at Duke that involves human subjects.  The study had been approved to capture images of individuals in a defined indoor space, and the resulting data was supposed to be available to other researchers only upon request, not through an open website.  However, it appears that images of about 2,700 individuals were instead gathered from an outdoor area during an 85-minute period on a single day in March 2014, and the data were then placed on a public website. As a result of this significant deviation from the approved protocol, the public website was taken down on April 25, 2019, and there are no plans to reopen it.”

Click here to read The Chronicle’s full story.

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