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On 22 June, more than 2,400 academics signed a letter from a group called the Coalition for Critical Technology (CCT), asking Springer Nature not to publish the work and calling on all publishers to refrain from publishing similar studies.

Springer Nature says the journal reviewed its processes and now requires authors to include statements on ethics approvals and consent when submitting manuscripts.

When asked for their opinions on studies that apply facial-recognition methods to recognize or predict personal characteristics (such as gender, sexual identity, age or ethnicity) from appearance, around two-thirds said that such studies should be done only with the informed consent of those whose faces were used, or after discussion with representatives of groups that might be affected.

Around 40% of the scientists in the survey felt that researchers should get informed consent from individuals before using their faces in a facial-recognition data set, but more than half felt that this wasn’t necessary.

Ed Gerstner, director of journal policy at Springer Nature, said the publisher was considering what it could do to discourage the “continued use” of image databases that don’t have explicit consent for their use in research from the people in the images.

The most popular answer was that during peer review, authors of facial-recognition papers should be asked explicitly about the ethics of their studies.

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