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State of Texas Moves Against Google - Alleges Kids' Faces Scanned, Cataloged, Stored for Future Use

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing Google, alleging the tech giant is harvesting facial and other data on Texans to store long into the future for any purpose it chooses without anyone’s informed consent.

The lawsuit targets Google Photos, Google Assistant and Nest Hub Max, according to a news release from Paxton’s office on Thursday.

“Google’s indiscriminate collection of the personal information of Texans, including very sensitive information like biometric identifiers, will not be tolerated,” the Republican attorney general said in a statement. “I will continue to fight Big Tech to ensure the privacy and security of all Texans.”

José Castañeda, a Google spokesman, said in a statement that Paxton “is once again mischaracterizing our products in another breathless lawsuit,” according to The New York Times.

“We will set the record straight in court,” he said.

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The lawsuit says Google stores images of every photo for its own use, regardless of whether anyone in the photo has agreed to this. The prime interest of the tech giant in doing this has been to advance its services and reap more profits, the lawsuit said, noting that vast privacy issues exist when Google holds an extensive amount of information on people, particularly children.

“Google has, since at least 2015, collected biometric data from innumerable Texans and used their faces and their voices to serve Google’s commercial ends. Indeed, all across the state, everyday Texans have become unwitting cash cows being milked by Google for profits,” the lawsuit said.

“Google has now spent years unlawfully capturing the faces and voices of both non-consenting users and non-users throughout Texas — including our children and grandparents, who simply have no idea that their biometric information is being mined for profit by a global corporation,” it said.

The lawsuit focuses on a facial recognition feature called “Face Grouping” in Google Photos.

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“The technology works by first detecting all faces depicted in a photo or video loaded into Google Photos,” the lawsuit says. “When Google detects an individual’s face, Google creates a record, or a face template, for that specific face. Google then evaluates whether the faces detected in each new photo or video uploaded is similar to face templates Google has previously recorded from other photos and videos. Finally, Google groups together any photos and videos depicting similar faces — known as ‘face groups’ — based, in part, on the similarity of face geometry.”

One of the prime concerns raised by Paxton’s office is that bystanders who may not even know they were photographed end up being data points for Google.

The lawsuit explained how the rights of those who have never consented are violated.

“When a Texas mother uploads photos of her daughter’s third birthday party to Google Photos, for example, Google captures the face geometry of every child’s face that can be detected in those photographs,” the lawsuit said.

“Even more troubling, when the mother uploads video of the birthday party, Google runs facial recognition on every face detected in that video, including the faces of uninvolved bystanders in the park, restaurant, or schoolyard,” it said. “And when a grandson drives to Midland to visit his grandmother on Easter and sends a series of photos taken on his Android phone to the family thread, those photos are sent to Google Photos by default, where Google captures grandma’s face geometry.

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“To Google, it does not matter that the three-year-olds, the bystanders, and grandma never consented to Google capturing and recording their biometric data.”

In a world where more data means more profits, Google is able to enrich itself by scanning faces and saving the data from them. As the lawsuit said, “the better the technology becomes at predicting and grouping attributes in future photos and videos,” the more money Google makes.

The lawsuit wants Google banned from “[c]apturing, maintaining, or using in any way the biometric identifiers captured in Texas without the informed consent of the relevant individual” and “[p]erforming voice or facial recognition in Texas without the informed consent of all individuals subject to Google’s facial-recognition and voice-recognition.”

It also wants all existing biometric identifiers destroyed within a year of when they are stored.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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