Technology 2 min read

Google Suspends its Controversial Facial Data Collection Program

MariaX /

MariaX /

After the New York Daily News exposed its suspicious facial data collection methods, Google has stopped its so-called “field research.”

According to recent reports, Atlanta officials have asked Google to confirm if there’s truth to the allegations that the company targeted black homeless people in the said city.

Atlanta’s city attorney, Nina Hickson, said in a letter to Google:

“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. If some or all of the reporting was accurate, we would welcome your response as what corrective action has been and will be taken.”

The ex-Google contractors The News spoke with revealed that they were given specific instruction to approach homeless individuals, students, and people of color.

Google Stops “Field Research” Program

Previously, Google said that the purpose of the field research was to gather data to improve the upcoming Pixel 4‘s face unlock feature.

To ensure that the face unlock feature will not suffer from racial bias, the ex-TVCs must target people with darker complexions.

In a statement released by Google, the company said that it’s now investigating the incident.

“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.”

Google said that the claims of the ex-TVCs are “very disturbing.” The Silicon Valley giant said that its contractors are strictly instructed to always be truthful and transparent with study participants.

Google contractors must always seek the consent of potential participants before pushing through with the facial data collection.

Further reports said that Google has not permanently pulled the plug on the program. Instead, it just temporarily suspended the field research while the investigation is still ongoing.

Google’s facial data collection program involves taking facial scans of willing participants in exchange for a $5 Starbucks gift card. The company said that the data collected will only be stored for a maximum of 18 months and can be deleted upon request.

Read More: Google Uses Suspicious Methods To Collect People’s Facial Data

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Chelle Fuertes

Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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