Earlier this week, the Google Arts and Culture app really picked up the trends and the selfies from the app, spread like wildfire on social media. The popularity shots up so, when the feature was just running beta, and was exclusive to users in the United States. However, the app has now drawn concerns from some that the privacy of the users may be at risk.
Users have are now questioning whether sharing their images with the Google app is potentially surrendering their facial recognition details to Google.
I mean, this google app that matches your face to a piece of fine art. Anyone suspicious of just surrendering your facial recognition to google or are we confident they already have that at this point?
4:04 PM – 14 Jan 2018
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) January 15, 2018
The Google Arts & Culture app is an amazing way to hack building a training dataset for facial recognition.
Security (captcha) is one way, but games and fun social media tools can be another hack to crowdsource a dataset
People actually overcame app fatigue for this! pic.twitter.com/i67XtY83Eg
— Nikhil Krishnan (@nikillinit) January 18, 2018
Y’all know that all of these novelty AI image recog apps like the Google Arts and Culture is just another way for them to collect more information on you and improve their algorithms and then target, track, and sell you more stuff… #Security #AI #tracking
— Girianth (@girianth) January 17, 2018
BGR India has reached out to Google to know more about the issue.
The Google Arts and Culture app uses machine learning to recognize a person’s face in the selfie, including the position of their head. It then compares the face to a bank of selected artwork to find matches.
In Google’s defense, the app also prompts that it “will only store your photo for the time it takes to search for matches”. Google says that these selfies are not being used to train machine learning programs, build a database of faces or for any other purpose. “Google is not using these selfies for anything other than art matches,” spokesman Patrick Lenihan told Washington Post.
There’s another aspect to the questions being raised against the app. Apart from the data security concerns, there are also concerns regarding racism.
On #MLKDay, I tried the Google selfie art app to learn than 90% of art hanging in museums is white people painting white people. Our history in this country and our future are going to be way more diverse. In 10 years, I hope a black or Asian kid can scan and find herself! https://t.co/BVezG7pPvn
— Anshu Sharma (@anshublog) January 15, 2018
A lot of people online have complained and even Newsweekobserved that the Google app isn’t that great at returning results for other races than the whites. However, the report says that might not be Google’s fault. The app may be pulling from disproportionately Eurocentric art that almost exclusively portrays white subjects. If that’s the case, there’s no way Google can fix it.
It’s fun, but it certainly highlights how limited art history (as understood through Google) is. It’s a platform for the art of the world, but it entrenches the old white male artist narrative even more
— mara kurlandsky (@mkurlandsky) January 16, 2018
This takes us back a few years ago, when Google’s Photos app came under fire when an algorithm identified black people as gorillas. The company “fixed” the problem by completely removing the “gorilla” category from its algorithms.
The latest version of the Google Arts & Culture app allows users to match their selfies against celebrated portraits pulled from more than 1,200 museums in more than 70 countries. The find-your-art-lookalike feature has been available since mid-December last year, however, the app only rocketed to up the charts earlier this week.