Google’s new Face Match Technology

Google’s newest smart display the Nest Hub Max has stirred up lots of controversy regarding its use of what they’re calling “Face Match” technology. The newest Nest Hub Max uses facial recognition to remember what you look like. The technology is very similar to our smartphones, so why are people finding issue with this new display versus other devices which collect facial data points?

The Nest Hub Max is constantly watching, looking for a familiar face. The front display camera works as a security system making sure unfamiliar faces don’t get in or access personal or private information, but it also records and uploads all of your data to a cloud based data storage owned by Google. Even to use the newest Google device you have to fully scan and upload a picture of your face via a connected phone. The Nest Hub Max provides calendar appointments, messages, etc. when it recognizes your face which can be very convenient and cool at times, but gives reason for concern when a company like Google is watching and recording your every movement. A green light appears on the device whenever it is recording or in use, essentially to let the consumer know it is active.

While Google representatives have come out and stressed that the Nest Hub Max’s Face Match and gesture-tracking features don’t involve the cloud at all, this CNET.com article by Ry Crist provides evidence to the contrary. Crist found a disclaimer on the Google Home app saying: 

“Face Match creates a unique model of your face that your Assistant uses to recognize you. This face model is stored on this Nest Hub Max and used to identify you when you’re in front of this device. It’s also temporarily processed at Google from time to time to improve the quality of your experience with this device.

Google is then saving and collecting all facial data at their headquarters cloud services.

Takeaway: While more privacy minded consumers will point to a lack of a physical barrier or stutter present on the display to prevent the camera from constantly watching, Google’s Nest Hub Max has an electronic killswitch for both the microphone and camera. There are plenty of pros and cons about the device itself, but the lesson is to be aware of any and all devices using facial recognition technology. Often that face data is recorded, saved, and sold without your knowledge. It is a good thing to see more consumers concerned with their data privacy, and not letting a company like Google entangle themselves in their everyday lives. There are still a lot more steps to take to ensure your privacy.