Google: Your Photos, Your Phone, Your Face | Ron Benvenisti

1. Your Photos and Documents

Back in November, Google announced After five years of offering unlimited free photo backups at “high quality,” Google Photos will start charging for storage when more than 15 gigabytes have been used up. It was stated that the policy will change on June 1st, 2021 along with the Google Drive policy changes where Google Workspace documents and spreadsheets will apply to the same fifteen gig quota.

Photos and documents uploaded before June 1st will not be counted against that 15GB cap, but June 1st is right around the corner so you will need to decide soon if you will still be using Google Photos or opting-out and switching to another cloud storage provider. To be clear, only photos and documents uploaded after June 1st will count against the 15GB cap. Google stated (back in November) that:

“More than 4 trillion photos are stored in Google Photos, and every week 28 billion new photos and videos are uploaded. Since so many of you rely on Google Photos to store your memories, it’s important that it’s not just a great product, but also continues to meet your needs over the long haul. In order to welcome even more of your memories and build Google Photos for the future, we are changing our unlimited High Quality storage policy.”

According to Google In addition to photos, “Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms and Jamboard files” will also count against the 15GB cap. The reasoning is “to bring our policies more in line with industry standards.” Google says, we will notify you multiple times before we attempt to remove any content so you have ample opportunities to take action. The simplest way to keep your account active is to periodically visit Gmail, Drive or Photos on the web or mobile, while signed in and connected to the internet. (BTW: This puts an end to some clever hacks like this one that turned files into Google Docs through a binary conversion tool.)

2. Your Phone

Google Pixel phone owners will not be affected at the same time according to Google Photos Product Manager Raja Ayyagari confirmed in a recent tweet:

“HQ uploads from Pixels 2-5 will continue to be free and unlimited after June 1st. But uploads from other devices, including future Pixels, will count towards your Google account storage”

As far as the remaining Pixel 1 owners, they will continue to enjoy unlimited ‘Original Quality’ uploads, which avoid Google’s 16-megapixel picture size limit and lossy compression algorithms. However, support is no longer provided for either the Pixel 1 or the Pixel 2 ranges besides the Pixels versions after version 2.

3. Your Face

Did you know that Facebook, Twitter, Google and Venmo, collect pictures of your face? They all use Clearview AI software to illegally stockpile data on 3 billion people without their knowledge or permission. In a current lawsuit several civil liberties activists are suing the company which provides facial recognition services to law enforcement agencies and private companies around the world.

The lawsuit contends that Clearview AI, the New York company has built “the most dangerous” facial recognition database in the nation, has fielded requests from more than 2,000 law enforcement agencies and private companies, and has amassed a database nearly seven times larger than the FBI’s.

The lawsuit was filed by four activists and the groups Mijente and Norcal Resist, who have supported causes such as Black Lives Matter and have been critical of the policies of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has a contract with Clearview AI.

“Clearview has provided thousands of governments, government agencies, and private entities access to its database, which they can use to identify people with dissident views, monitor their associations, and track their speech.”

Clearview AI scrapes dozens of internet sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and Venmo, to gather facial photos. Scraping involves the use of computer programs to automatically scan and copy data, which the lawsuit says is analyzed by Clearview AI to identify individual biometrics such as eye shape and size that are then put into a “faceprint” database that clients can use to ID people.

Not only are the images scraped by Clearview AI are those posted by individuals and their family and friends but also those of people who are inadvertently captured in the background of strangers’ photos, according to the lawsuit.

The company also offers its services to law enforcement even in cities that ban the use of facial recognition, the lawsuit alleges.

Several cities around the country, including the Bay Area cities of Alameda, San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, have limited or banned the use of facial recognition technology by local law enforcement.

“Clearview AI complies with all applicable law and its conduct is fully protected by the First Amendment,” said a statement from attorney Floyd Abrams, representing the company.  Clearview AI’s CEO, Hoan Ton-That, (Hmmmm?) said in a statement that “an independent study has indicated the Clearview AI has no racial bias.” “As a person of mixed race, having non-biased technology is important to me,” he said.

The lawsuit says that Facebook, Twitter, Google and other social media firms have asked Clearview AI to stop scraping images because it violated their terms of service with users.

Facial recognition systems have faced criticism because of their mass surveillance capabilities, which raise privacy concerns, and because some studies have shown that the technology is far more likely to misidentify Blacks, Asians and other non-whites, which has resulted in mistaken arrests.

“No wonder, Artificial Intelligence is the future. We’ve seen its application in possibly every field now. The problem isn’t with the technology, it is with the biasness that goes in”, says Timnit Gebru. “it is built in a manner that replicates the white work force that’s mostly men-dominated making it.” Dr. Gebru co-founded an organization, Black in AI, a community of black researchers working in artificial intelligence. She completed her Ph.D. and was then hired by Google. It was during this time that she told Bloomberg News how AI suffers from what she called “sea of dudes” problem. This left everyone stunned.

She talked about how she worked with hundreds of men over a period of 5 years and the number of women could be counted on fingers. A New York researcher saw how biased AI was against Black people. An incident wherein a Black researcher learned that an AI system couldn’t identify her face till she had put up a white mask raised eyebrows!

Dr. Gebru was quickly fired by Google. She said that this was because her criticism against Google’s minority hiring. When Dr. Margaret Mitchell, founder and co-lead of Google’s Ethical AI research team with Dr. Timnit Gebru, defended her, Google removed her too without leaving any comments

Things got worse when image recognition was what Google tried its hands on. The AI model was trained to categorize the photos on what was pictured – for example dogs, birthday party, food, etc. But this is when one user saw a folder named “Gorillas”. On opening the same, he found about 80 photos that he had clicked with a friend during a concert. His friend was black. The point of discussion is that this AI model is trained by engineers who choose data.

On a side note, since facial recognition relies mostly on biometrics which compares images mainly of the eyes, maybe beards and hats and wigs won’t cut it.




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