Google paid people $5 to scan their faces

Credit: The Verge

What a world we live in. People seem to be extremely concerned about their data and privacy, like we saw with the controversy regarding FaceApp, yet it seems they are comfortable being paid a nominal fee to give that same data to Google. For the upcoming Google Pixel 4, they reportedly paid people $5 to scan their faces and use that data for the new face unlock feature.

Read: Google confirms Pixel 4 face unlock, enhanced security, Project Soli

As revealed by ZDNet, employees of the Mountain View tech giant have been approaching people randomly on the street and offering a $5 gift card in exchange for a facial scan. Confirmed by Google, they called it “field research” to collect data to improve its algorithms for facial recognition that will be used in their Pixel 4 device, ditching the fingerprint scanner.

This, according to Google, was for the purpose of diversifying its set of faces, making the feature as accurate as possible. The time-of-flight sensor will scan the face to pinpoint accuracy, yet Google needed to train its machine learning algorithms with real world data first.

Illustration of scan

Google wants to make sure the Pixel 4 is as accurate as possible, but also as unbiased as possible when scanning people’s faces. This comes amidst recent controversy that current facial recognition software is biased against certain minorities – specifically in that it has more errors when trying to identify certain population groups – which Google wants to avoid.

According to Google, “although face samples inherently can’t be anonymous, each participant is assigned an abstract identity number. We separately keep each participant’s email address, in order to remove data upon request.”

The data will only be kept for 18 months, and Google confirmed that a face will never be associated with a specific Google ID in this AI training process. Google writes:

“Security and privacy are core principles for Pixel. Face unlock uses facial recognition technology that is processed on your device, so that image data never leaves your phone. The images used for face unlock are never saved or shared with other Google services. To protect your privacy and security, your face data is securely stored in Pixel’s Titan M security chip. Similarly, Soli sensor data is also processed on your phone, and it’s never saved or shared with other Google services.”