Australia’s Curtin University Lobbies to Retract ‘Unethical’ AI Study on Uyghur Facial Recognition

Australia’s Curtin University on Wednesday has asked journal publisher Wiley Online Library to retract a controversial facial recognition study by an ex-faculty member to identify Uyghur and Tibetan minorities.

Academic Wanquan Liu and co-authors at Chinese universities published the study in 2018 which was partly funded by the Chinese government.

The research used facial recognition software to better identify members of the Uyghur and Tibetan minority groups.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners first reported the study in 2019 and was criticized by human rights campaigners who were worried about its possible misuse by authorities to persecute Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Curtin University said that the study had breached its ethics code with the subjects not giving informed consent.

“Ethics approval should have been sought by the academic,” said Curtin University in a statement to Reuters.

Liu did not immediately respond to an email request for comment from Reuters.

Professor Chris Moran, Curtin University’s deputy vice-chancellor, repeatedly urged Wiley to retract the study and remove any reference to the university immediately but the paper remains online.

Wiley said in a statement that it has previously investigated the study and was currently looking at the matter again taking into account Curtin University’s new information.

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