Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘Face Match’

Google’s got a new face-tracking camera for your home. We’ve got questions

Posted by M. C. on September 9, 2019

Beyond ridiculous. They will likely sell millions.


Google Home and Nest Hub gadgets already feature microphones that are always listening for the words that wake up the Assistant (“OK, Google” or “Hey, Google”). Now, the search giant’s newest gadget for your home, the Nest Hub Max smart display, adds in a camera that’s always watching for a familiar face.

Google calls the feature Face Match, and it uses facial recognition technology to remember what you look like. After that, you can tap on the screen to see personalized bits of data like calendar appointments and Google Duo messages whenever it recognizes you.

The Nest Hub Max isn’t the first product to bring facial recognition technology — and the legal and ethical considerations that come with it — into people’s homes. Smart phones have been using the technology to let us unlock our devices and authorize purchases for years, and a growing number of smart home gadgets that use cameras are putting it to use, too, including Google’s own Nest Hello video doorbell.

Still, it’s a product that seeks to give Google a wider window into our lives at a time when the company is already facing questions about the way it handles our personal data. I wanted to take a closer look at how those privacy standards apply when you add always-watching cameras into the mix.

You’ll start with Face Match by using your phone to scan your face, which creates a “face model” that the device attaches to your user profile. After that, when you’re in front of the device and it recognizes you, you’ll see personalized details like calendar appointments and Google Duo video messages from your contacts.

I had a lot of questions for Google about this feature, and about the camera’s ability to spot a raised hand gesture in order to pause or resume playback, too. For instance: Is the camera always recording in order to process what it sees and spot familiar faces or gestures? Is it sharing everything it sees with Google’s cloud?

“If camera sensing is enabled and the camera is on (i.e., not turned off via the hardware or software switch), then the camera is continuously processing pixels to look for faces and/or gestures,” a Google spokesperson explained. “This processing is done locally on the device, and no pixels leave the Nest Hub Max.”…

Many users prefer the sense of privacy offered by a shutter that they can leave closed when the device isn’t in use, especially if they plan to keep it somewhere like a bedroom. Amazon seemed to figure that out in between last year’s second-gen Amazon Echo Show smart display, which lacked a shutter, and this year’s Amazon Echo Show 5, which added one.

When asked about the lack of a shutter, Google defended its design by downplaying the distinction between kill switch and shutter altogether.

“We’ve included a mic plus camera switch that electrically disables both the camera and mics, making it functionally equivalent to a physical camera shutter,” said a Google spokesperson….

Be seeing you

Google Chrome Silently Listening to Your Private Conversations



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