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To grow biometric datasets, Google and Telus will pay $50 for short videos of children 

To grow biometric datasets, Google and Telus will pay $50 for short videos of children 

The question of how to train face biometrics algorithms often comes with concerns about consent in the use of publicly available images. Like Worldcoin before them, Google and Telus International, subsidiary Canadian telco Telus, are addressing the problem with cash incentives, via a new initiative that offers $50 to parents who are willing to film their kids so that their skin tone, eyelid shape and other biometric features can be used to build biometric datasets for age verification.

An investigation by 404 Media says a published description of the project specifies parents must agree to shoot 11 videos, each 40 seconds or less, of their children sporting face masks or hats, or unadorned to record biometric modalities such as skin tone and facial geometry. The process also collects personal information such as name, gender and birth date. Participating kids must be between 13 and 17 years old.

Telus International AI Inc. (TIAI) says the goal is to “capture a broad cross-section of participants targeting various combinations of demographics, with the goal of ensuring that our customer’s services, and derived products, are equally representative of a diverse set of end-users.” According to the company, helping Google find volunteers will ultimately improve authentication tools and add security for Telus’ end users, although they refer to Google as “a non-affiliated customer of TIAI.”

Meanwhile, a statement from Google LLC outlines the details of the process, for which TIAI identified volunteers who were then referred to Google for biometric capture.

“As part of our commitment to delivering age-appropriate experiences and to comply with laws and regulations around the world, we’re exploring ways to help our users verify their age,” says the statement. “Google collected videos and images of faces, clearly explaining how the content will be used and, as with all research involving minors, we required parental consent for participants under the age of 18. We’ve also put strict privacy protections in place, including limiting the amount of time the data will be retained and providing all participants the option to delete their data at any time.” The fine print says Google and Telus can “retain the data as long as needed to fulfill the purposes of the study,” but for no longer than five years from the date of biometric data collection or termination of the study.

Parents who sign up their kids are required to shoot the videos on private premises, with a Google representative on a call to walk them through the steps, and to verify some form of identification for the child (for instance, a passport).

However, as Britney Spears has shown us, there is no guarantee that parents are acting in the best interests of their children. Patchwork laws across federal and provincial jurisdiction do not make the situation much clearer. In Ontario, the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act gives individuals having lawful custody of a child under 16 years of age the right to provide consent on the child’s behalf; once a student turns 16, their parent or guardian may no longer consent on their behalf. Meanwhile, British Columbia, where Telus is headquartered, is governed under the Personal Information Privacy Act (PIPA).

On top of this, the federal government continues to push through Bill C-27, which would replace the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) with new legislation under the Consumer Privacy Protection Act, the Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act and the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act. The new federal laws would classify the personal data of minors as “sensitive information,” making it subject to more rigorous protections, and give children autonomy over their personal information.

Meaning, the window for buying kids’ face biometrics on the cheap from eager parents might not be open for long, making it likely that similar campaigns will ramp up before regulations catch up with demand.

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