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Google Used Unethical Tactics to Collect Facial Scans for Pixel 4, Targeted Homeless People: Report

Google hired contractors to collect facial data, and they targeted homeless people to get their facial scans without their knowledge.

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Google Used Unethical Tactics to Collect Facial Scans for Pixel 4, Targeted Homeless People: Report

Google is offering money in exchange for facial scans

Highlights
  • Google hired a contractor called Randstad to collect facial scans
  • The Google TVCs misled users to provide facial scans by lying to them
  • The TVCs told users that it was a selfie game to covertly take face scan

Google has been reported to go to extreme measures to collect facial recognition data for its Pixel 4 series. A new report has surfaced online highlighting questionable ways Google resorted to, in order to collect facial data of darker skinned people. Apparently, the tech giant hired contractors to collect facial data, and these people targeted homeless people to get their facial scans without their knowledge. Google reportedly hired a contracting agency called Randstad to collect these scans, and many users were duped to give face scans.

The NY Daily News report says that teams were sent to Atlanta to target homeless people in particular, unsuspecting students on college campuses around the US, and to target attendees of the BET Awards festivities in Los Angeles, among other places.

Some of the people hired for the job spoke to The News and project leaders at Randstad told them to go specifically after people of colour, and conceal the fact that people's faces were being recorded. There were even instructed to lie to maximise their facial data collections.

Some scheming tactics used by these collectors include lying to users by describing the facial scan as a “selfie game” similar to Snapchat. Workers also described saying things like, “Just play with the phone for a couple minutes and get a gift card,” and, “We have a new app, try it and get $5.”

The report says that that these contractors were called TVCs, and they were encouraged to rush subjects to sign consent forms and ask survey questions. “One of the days of training was basically building a vocabulary that distracts the user from the actual task at hand as much as possible,” one of the former workers told The News.

“They said to target homeless people because they're the least likely to say anything to the media. The homeless people didn't know what was going on at all,” the ex-staffer said. The report also said that while Google directed Randstad to go after darker-skinned people, the representative didn't really speak of going after homeless people.

We've reported earlier that Google was paying people on the street $5 (roughly Rs. 350) for facial scans in order to collect facial data for the Pixel 4. The company has even confirmed that it is indeed collecting facial data in exchange for money, to refine the Pixel 4 Face Unlock feature. However, the extreme measures the company is resorting to, is raising several concerns.

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Further reading: Google, Pixel 4, Face Unlock
Tasneem Akolawala When not expelling tech wisdom, Tasneem feeds on good stories that strike on all those emotional chords. She loves road trips, a good laugh, and interesting people. She binges on movies, sitcoms, food, books, and DIY videos. More
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