Google Offering $5 for Your Face

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Yikes!  That’s a frightening headline … and certainly one that should prompt you (out of curiosity, fear or both) to read further.  It seems the search giant is doing some “feet on the street” data collection and offering $5.00 as an incentive to help. According to a ZDNet writer, a friend of his was approached by Googlers in NYC asking for him to take a few selfies on a phone they provided. As the report continues, the gentleman had a difficult time determining exactly what type of phone they were giving him to use for this request, as it seemed to have a large outer case. Perhaps a prototype for something new by Pixel that was also under review and experimentation at the same time?

So after agreeing to give the requested selfies, the subject was offered a gift card to either Amazon or Starbucks.  Side note: I do find it really interesting given all the digital search and advertising competition between those two companies that Google would opt to provide Amazon as a selection here. Of course, there was the obligatory “sign this” moment before it all started … but how many people actually read the release fine print, especially when they get approached for something as unique and cool like this?  My guess is that now Google owns the rights to this person’s facial digital image and can likely utilize it in a variety of ways, including testing around online recognition and matching.

The report states there are Googlers doing this in many cities and I am curious how long this has been going on, before someone raised it publicly as an interesting point of reference.  One has to wonder if this work (research/data collection) being performed is associated with Google’s 2018 Patent on facial recognition. The abstract describes a method for performing facial recognition but rather than using a live face, it uses a digital photograph.  Time will tell.

Although Google’s approach is more structured and upfront in terms of goal and request for data, the recent viral app FaceApp, which makes you look old or young and wasn’t as clear with disclosure, has similar end results.  Collecting images of your face by another company and not having complete transparency and understanding of what they plan to use it for, or where it may be used, is scary. Especially if you have authorized (knowingly or not) your rights away. So before you are intrigued by the research, the $5 gift card or the “gamification” of this ask – think through to the offeror’s end game and make sure you are comfortable with the possibilities that could result.

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