A few stories have surfaced lately, showing the shady tactics that were being used for facial scanning program to improve the Google Pixel 4's facial recognition.
These tactics were used by a third-party company. One that Google had contracted to gather facial scanning to help improve the feature that's coming to the Pixel 4.
After these recent stories surfaced, Google knew it had to take action and shut down this program.
Google was paying users for their faces
The two major stories that surfaced regarding the facial scanning program Google was doing, included paying users just $5 for their face information. And the other was the fact that this third-party contractor was targeting people of color as well as the homeless.
While it sounds wrong, targeting people of color makes sense. Facial recognition is still pretty tough on those with darker skin tones. This is partly due to the light that is available when the phone is scanning your face when unlocking your phone. So gathering more data on darker skin tones makes a lot of sense. But it does still sound wrong.
Though it's still unclear why they were targeting the homeless. Perhaps because they knew that they would do anything for a few bucks, to get some food, etc. Either way, it's a bad look on Google.
According to Google, this was not what it wanted the third-party company – which was Randstad – to do, to get this face data.
Google spoke with The Verge today about this and said that "we're taking these claims seriously and investigating them. The allegations regarding truthfulness and consent are in violation of our requirements for volunteer research studies and trainings that we provided."
Google routinely uses third-party contractors for different things
Google uses third-party companies for a lot of things, within the company. In fact, it recently came out that Google has more contractors that work for them, then actual employees.
This is how a lot of larger companies, like Google, are able to make so much profit. As they pay the contractors a lot less – and don't have to provide benefits.
So hearing that Google was using a third-party contractor to conduct this research, is no surprise at all. Even for its facial recognition software on the Pixel 4. But that doesn't mean that Google approves of these shady tactics that were used.
While Google has pressed pause on this program for now, it doesn't mean that it won't be starting it up once again, after it has looked into some of the issues.