Oct 07, 2019 11:56 AM EDT
Google’s Field Research Suspended Due To Controversial Methods
Pixel 4 flagship smartphone is about to be launched in less than two weeks and Google decided to put a halt on their "field research". The New York Daily News reported that a $5 gift certificate was given to every participant in exchange for a facial scan. The news named one Google contracting agency that was actively tricking unwitting college students and homeless people into participating. They were told they were just testing a new app.
When asked, the company said that the idea behind the facial scan was to ensure that Pixel 4's facial recognition software would be able to recognize an array of faces. They emphasized that such testing would help reduce biases. This basically made sense for a facial recognition technology.
In an interview with The New York Times, Google executives open up about the suspension of the program. They spoke of an internal investigation prompted by the allegations raised in The New York Daily News. They refuse to confirm the allegations, but they did admit that they hire Randstad as an independent contractor for the research. Google emphasized to their researchers that they need to be transparent to people they approach for a facial scan.
When asked about the allegations, Google said that the details of the allegations are quite "disturbing". This new information from Google officials may be the key to clearing their name in this controversy. If the allegations named in the Daily News' article were proven true, its independent contractor will be facing all the charges and Google will be able to clear their name.
In a statement the company released, Google said that they are taking the claims seriously. They are conducting our own investigation as the allegations concerning truthfulness to get consent was a violation of their requirement. They provided their volunteer researchers with training to ensure that they are able to gather data with adherence to company rules and regulations.
The company also mentioned that the program isn't suspended for good. It was only put on hold as the company conducts its own investigation. Meanwhile, they promise to keep paying their contractors.
Notably, Google is coming with its hands clean after Nina Hickson, an Atlanta-based attorney, sent them a strongly-worded mail about the methods of research the internet company is using. She pointed out that the homeless were exploited by the research. "The members of the most vulnerable populations are being used to advance the company's commercial interest and it's profoundly alarming," Hickson wrote.
The suspension of the research process by the company itself shows its sincere intent to clarify the allegations. Although the company and its people are not directly involved, the internal investigation will clarify the process that made this supposed violation possible.
The goal of the research is to further human knowledge to expand it to technology that make human lives easy. If the process has wronged someone in the process, the only thing left it to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone again. That's exactly what Google is trying to do.
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