This summer, we learned that Google had embarked on a wide scale project to collect facial recognition data, which the company said was necessary to build “fairness” into face unlocking for its Pixel 4, which will be officially unveiled on October 15th. A new report from the New York Daily News has more details on where Google sent people to collect that data, and what they were told to do by the company that hired them as contractors for the project.
The people collecting the data worked as TVCs — the “temporary, vendor and contractors” who outnumber Google’s own employees on the company’s roster — for an employment firm called Randstad. While the statement Google gave to media this summer indicated that participants signed a consent form allowing for the use of their data, including everything from infrared response to how they picked up the phone from the table, temp workers the paper talked to said they were trained to be pushy, and even lie to people about what was going on.
Google told the News that it was investigating claims that “dubious” tactics were used, as the reporters cited several people who said they participated without any clear idea of what was going on or who the data was for. According to the contractors cited, they had a mandate to pursue “darker skin tones,” which included pushes to collect scans from homeless people and college students — the former because they’d be less likely to talk to the media, and all of them because they’d be willing to do it in exchange for $5 Starbucks gift cards.