Technical facial recognition research should be retracted for ethical reasons, a higher education provider said.

A study, partly funded by the Chinese government and a former Curtin University professor, has drawn fierce criticism for adopting immoral practises.

The Western Australian education provider claims it discovered multiple ethical violations regarding informed consent and approval.

Facial recognition software research has been criticized since 2019 as a potential tool for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to monitor persecuted groups.

Human Rights Watch claims the CCP uses artificial intelligence (AI) against Uighur native people, underground Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong adherents.

“This is an app that has been designed to gather basic information about Uighurs and other Muslims,” the organization previously said in a statement obtained by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “We know that people have been sent to political re-education camps on the basis of information collected through this application.”

The regime is accused of subjecting prisoners of conscience to forced labor, kidnapping, torturing, sterilizing, organ harvesting, raping, and more. International governments have denounced such practices as “genocide.”

Curtin University tried to convince publisher Wiley to withdraw the study and delete all references to the university multiple times. However, the paper continues to be published online.

Other publishers have removed their relevant studies that used data from the original study, including the IEEE Open Journal of the Computer Society. 

Although it is unclear when Curtin University started asking for the study’s retraction, Wiley revealed it was reviewing the request and investigating potential ethical code breaches after being asked for media comment.

“We take every concern seriously and are reviewing the matter again taking into account the new information provided by Curtin University,” the publisher said according to the broadcaster.

Curtin University claims the controversial research was conducted without the institution’s knowledge.

“Curtin has established a new risk-based framework and guidelines to deal with informal research activities,” a representative said.

Center-right Australian Liberal Senator James Paterson applauded the university for tackling the study. The parliamentary intelligence and security committee chairman is very concerned to learn such a breach occurred.

“It does raise troubling questions about how this research was allowed to be conducted in the first place, and why it went undetected for so long,” he said according to the broadcaster. “It is alarming to think an Australian university was involved with research that can so clearly be used for profoundly unethical purposes.”

The CCP’s diplomatic relationship with Australia has become increasingly tense according to the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Reports emerged that Chinese pro-democracy students could be harassed for speaking up on sensitive matters about the CCP. Australia’s government responded by setting up a taskforce to crack down on “unprecedented levels” of foreign meddling.

Chinese officials reportedly threatened one student with imprisonment. His only crime was establishing a Twitter account in Australia that shared pro-democracy remarks.

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