Google face-tacking tech raises privacy questions

" 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.

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 + camera switch that electrically disables both the camera and mics, making it functionally equivalent to a physical camera shutter,” said a Google spokesperson.

At any rate, the lack of a shutter seems to put a gulf in between Google and at least some of its potential customers, many of whom might be growing increasingly wary of just how much data they’re sharing with Silicon Valley. Time will tell if the digital kill switch is enough of a compromise to bridge that gap."

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