GOOGLE HAS CONFIRMED that it is putting a temporary halt on its practice of cash-for-faces, after a report revealed that street teams were bribing the homeless to give up their faces for the price of a cup of coffee.
The company had been using the technique to grow its database ahead of the launch of the Pixel 4, which is expected to have face unlock as its primary security feature. It said it was to ensure that there was no potential bias, particularly against people of colour, which has been a significant issue for facial recognition in the past.
Google says that it has launched an investigation into the scheme which was subcontracted to a company called Randstad and that it had found the methods employed by the company "very disturbing".
It comes after Atlanta-based attorney Nina Hickson warned the company: "The possibility that members of our most vulnerable populations are being exploited to advance your company's commercial interest is profoundly alarming for numerous reasons,"
Google says that the contractor was given very explicit instructions on how to behave with transparency and respect for participants and that these were not being followed.
It adds that although the scheme is suspended, it isn't cancelled and that Randstad has been retained for the moment.
"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 the training that we provided."
The expose also singled out students as a target of the street teams, who were told that they were simply "testing a new app" rather than giving their facial features to the Matrix.
The Pixel 4 range, complete with facial unlock feature is set to be officially unveiled on 15 October, though thanks to a whole raft of leaks, there's going to be very little to tell on the day. µ
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