Google Alleged Of Targeting People Of Color, Scanning Their Faces Without Consent
Dhir Acharya - Oct 05, 2019
Google targeted people of color to improve its facial recognition software, and that included college students as well as homeless people.
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On Wednesday, the New York Daily News reported that Google targeted people of color to improve its facial recognition software, and that included college students as well as homeless people. The search giant gave $5 (Rs 354) gift cards to volunteers in exchange for scanning their faces.
With the project, the company was working to enhance biometric features on its devices such as Pixel phones’ facial unlock features. It wanted to gather data on people of various backgrounds to ensure its phones can recognize many facial features and skin tones.
The report added that to collect facial scans, Google partnered with Randstad, a staffing agency. On behalf of Google, the contractors went to find homeless people at campuses and events, according to the Daily News.
In addition, the contractors couldn’t let volunteers know they were being recorded. At the same time, the staffers had to mislead them into face scans by telling them that they were joining a “selfie game,” the report revealed.
A spokesman from Google said that the firm was taking those claims seriously and had investigations into them. The accusations against the company related to consent and truthfulness, which violated their training as well as requirements for volunteer research studies.
“We regularly conduct volunteer research studies. For recent studies involving the collection of face samples for machine learning training, there are two goals. First, we want to build fairness into Pixel 4's face unlock feature. It's critical we have a diverse sample, which is an important part of building an inclusive product. And second, security. Face unlock will be a powerful new security measure, and we want to make sure it protects as wide a range of people as possible,” said the spokesman.
Randstad did not respond to a comment request.
The controversy comes just days ahead of Google’s event where it will unveil new devices, including the long-rumored Pixel 4. It’s not the first time giant tech firms have offered volunteers money to get their personal information. Earlier this year, Facebook and Google were found to offer consumer gift cards under the condition that they installed apps letting the companies access info on their phones. In May, Amazon offered people $25 if they took a 3D scan of their bodies for an undisclosed project.
In the past, Google faced criticism that its algorithms were racial biased. In 2015, Google Photos was called out by a developer as he and his friends, who are black, were labeled as gorillas. The company apologized and said that it would make long-term fixes.