Atlanta officials have questions for Google, according to multiple news sources including the New ork Times and the Grio.
Officials in Atlanta want to know, did the technology giant target Black homeless people in the city to improve its facial-recognition software? Last Wednesday, it was reported that a staffing agency hired by Google sent contractors to Atlanta and other cities to target Black people for facial scans. In Atlanta, according to one anonymous ex-worker, contractors gathered up homeless people figuring they would be less apt to report them to the media.
Still, word got out and on Friday, as Nina Hickson, Atlanta’s city attorney, sent a letter to Google looking for answers. “The possibility that members of our most vulnerable populations are being exploited to advance your company’s commercial interest is profoundly alarming for numerous reasons,” Hickson said in a letter to Kent Walker, Google’s legal and policy chief, according to the New York Times.
“If some or all of the reporting was accurate, we would welcome your response as what corrective action has been and will be taken.” Google maintains it hired contractors from Randstad to scan the faces of volunteers to improve its facial recognition software, to allow users to unlock Google’s new phone just by looking at it.
The idea was to capture a diverse sampling of faces to ensure the software worked with a variety of different skin tones, two Google executives said in an email to colleagues, which was shared with the New York Times.
“Our goal in this case has been to ensure we have a fair and secure feature that works across different skin tones and face shapes,” the Google executives said in the email. However, Google representatives say they suspended the research and began an investigation into the allegations.