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University of Montana

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Facial recognition software is going to play a role at the University of Montana commencement this year when the school offers photographs to graduates and their families.

For the first time, UM will be working with a professional photographer to take pictures at graduation, registrar Joe Hickman said last week.

Although the contract was still being finalized, he said Grad Images with facial recognition software will be on hand, and it will offer a service that another Montana university, ahem, won't be offering at its own commencement.

"The idea is to offer our graduates and their families multiple photographs of them from their ceremony," Hickman said in an email. "Some of those would be staged photographs and some of those would be candid shots from throughout the day.

"The facial recognition software is used to match graduates to all of the pictures taken of them, to give them an opportunity of purchasing all of the pictures available."

UM could choose to earn a commission on photos based on sales volume, but Hickman, who talked about Grad Images at last week's cabinet meeting and in an email to the Missoulian, said the campus will choose to instead keep prices lower for families.

Grad Images could not be reached for comment about its facial recognition software via voicemails left on the land line and cellphone of a corporate media contact.

However, UM communications director Paula Short said the university is comfortable with the privacy policy the company posts on its website.

"I believe the vendor provides the images only to the subjects in the photos (with an option for them to purchase) and, per their posted privacy policy and terms of use ... release or use of images by anyone else would require permission," Short said in an email.

She noted that commercial use of images by individuals who purchase them also appears to be prohibited without permission.

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Higher Education Reporter

Higher education / University of Montana reporter for the Missoulian.