Google targeted black people to test new facial recognition software

Google targeted black people to test new facial recognition software and offered $5 gift cards to homeless and students to take part – but didn’t tell them what tests were for

  • Temps targeted people with darker skin to improve Pixel 4 security measures
  • Were asked to tell people they were playing a ‘selfie game’ not being recorded
  • Thought homeless people would be less likely to talk to media

Google has been seeking facial scans of people with ‘darker skin’ as part of its efforts to improve the company’s facial scan software.

The company has sent out teams of temp workers, hired through the staffing agency Randstad, to scan people’s faces in exchange for $5 gift cards.

Workers for the program said they were directed to target homeless people and college students.

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Facial recognition software has been notoriously unreliable for people with dark skin, something Google wanted to improve for the upcoming launch of the Pixel 4 (pictured above).

The workers were encouraged to conceal the fact that they were collecting facial data and instead asked if people would be interested in playing a ‘selfie game’ using specially equipped smart phones.

‘We were told not to tell them that it was video, even though it would say on the screen that a video was taken,’ one of the temps told the NY Daily News.

The program is intended to improve the accuracy of Google’s facial recognition software for its forthcoming Google Pixel 4, which will use the technology as part of its expanded security measures.

‘It’s critical we have a diverse sample, which is an important part of building an inclusive product,’ a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Google is promoting the facial recognition tools in the Pixel 4 (pictured above) as a major advance in smartphone security.

The goal of the project, Google claimed, was to make sure the phone’s security measures ‘protects as wide a range of people as possible.’

One person who formerly worked on the project claims they were asked to target homeless people because they were less likely to speak to the media.

Earlier this week, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib criticized the Detroit Police Department’s facial recognition software for not being able to accurately recognize black people.

The Detroit Police Department’s facial recognition software had an error rate of 60% for black people, and was especially error prone with black women.


Facial recognition software works by matching real time images to a previous photograph of a person. 

Each face has approximately 80 unique nodal points across the eyes, nose, cheeks and mouth which distinguish one person from another. 

A digital video camera measures the distance between various points on the human face, such as the width of the nose, depth of the eye sockets, distance between the eyes and shape of the jawline.

A different smart surveillance system (pictured) can scan 2 billion faces within seconds has been revealed in China. The system connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to pick out targets. The military is working on applying a similar version of this with AI to track people across the country 

This produces a unique numerical code that can then be linked with a matching code gleaned from a previous photograph.

A facial recognition system used by officials in China connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to pick out targets.

Experts believe that facial recognition technology will soon overtake fingerprint technology as the most effective way to identify people. 

In China, facial recognition software has become a part of daily life.

Chinese citizens must now submit to having their faces scanned by the government before having internet installed in their homes.

The Chinese program is part of an initiative that aims to connect to 626 million CCTV cameras around the country by 2020.

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