In context: Google's upcoming Pixel 4 may be a few months away but apparently its employees are going out in public and randomly asking volunteers to have their faces scanned in return for a $5 gift card, with the motivation behind it reportedly being the development of Google's own version of Face ID for its next phones.
Yesterday we got to know more about the upcoming Pixel 4's design and now it seems more likely that the new cutout on the top right could be home to a face recognition sensor. As reported by ZDNet, Google employees are out in the wild asking the public to use a "phone in a very large case" in what could be a Pixel prototype learning its way around recognizing faces, like a human baby.
The Google employees are also giving out $5 gift cards, which in this encounter, could be spent at Amazon or Starbucks. Considering that "they have teams in many cities doing this," those gift cards may also be useful in other places. The objective of this activity though, is to collect data to "improve the next generation of facial recognition phone unlocking."
"I basically had to use selfie mode and move my face around to get different angles of my face," said George, a friend of Chris, who reported of the incident. George was then offered a $5 gift card in exchange for 5 minutes of interaction with the phone.
He also inquired with the team on whether they were the only ones doing this activity considering that they would need a whole lot of time and a big data set to achieve their goal. George, who resides in New York, was then told by the employees that they have many teams in other cities doing the same.
There was also a waiver which a volunteer needed to sign before engaging with the face scanning prototype/device which George admits he didn't go fully through. "Truthfully, I didn't read the full waiver thing," he says.
Upon Chris questioning his friend whether he knows of what Google will do with his information, George said that he assumes that the company will "use the data to train a neural network to be able to recognize what a face is...Then you train your own phone on what your specific face looks like. And that's what gets used to unlock your phone, Face ID-style, but more accurately."
When Chris asked his friend regarding privacy concerns, he said that the company already has his whole life on their servers and practically it isn't possible for him to remove Google from his life. "I don't really care about data privacy because I think it's all an illusion anyway."
It's interesting to see how this encounter also reflects the general behavior of a majority of people when it comes to privacy. Although user data has long been a gold mine for companies, would it be more acceptable if they started paying their users in exchange for it?