Less than two weeks before the debut of the flagship Pixel 4 smartphone, Google is temporarily shutting down a controversial “field research” program that offered subjects in US cities a $ 5 gift certificate in exchange for a scan of his face, after a New York Daily News report that a Google recruitment agency was actively targeting the homeless in Atlanta and tricking unwitting college students into participating by pretending they were simply testing a new app.
Originally, the company told us that the idea was to make sure the Pixel 4’s new Face Unlock feature recognized a diverse variety of faces, which could prevent it from leaning against people of color – a legitimate concern for facial recognition technology. .
Google now says The New York Times and The Verge who immediately suspended the program and opened an investigation, after reading the Daily News’ history. He would not confirm individual allegations, but said it is true that he hired Randstad contractors for the investigation, the same contractor named in the Daily News’ expose, and Google has reportedly called the alleged details “very disturbing.” Google tells you The edge which made sure to provide instructions to its investigators to be transparent with the people they approached for a facial scan, so it appears Google will be able to dodge some of the blame if the allegations about its contractor are true.
Here is a statement Google provided: “We are taking these claims seriously and investigating them. The allegations regarding truthfulness and consent violate our requirements for voluntary research studies and the training we provide.”
Google doesn’t necessarily suspend the program forever. He says he simply stopped him while the company investigates and in the meantime he will continue to pay contractors.
In particular, Google comes after Atlanta city attorney Nina Hickson sent a very forceful email to the company about the goal of homeless people: “The possibility that members of our most vulnerable populations being exploited to advance your company’s business interest is deeply alarming. ” for numerous reasons, “he wrote, the times reports.
You can read the Daily News’ all expose right here.
Update, October 5 at 2:57 pm ET: Added confirmation and more information direct from Google.