This is Behind the Blog, where we share our behind-the-scenes thoughts about how a few of our top stories of the week came together. This week, we discuss Google face-scanning children, accessing the Epstein documents, and a viral Peloton moment.
JOSEPH: I’m going to write about a common misunderstanding in why people think journalists cover what they do. Many assume that with every article a journalist writes, the journalist must think the subject matter is a scandal, is “bad,” or is otherwise making a value judgment. That’s what I saw with my story mentioned up top, Google Contractor Pays Parents $50 to Scan Their Childrens' Faces. Some of the sentiment was: why are you covering this; this is better than scraping images without consent. The headline is pretty self-explanatory but to lay it out: Google looked for parents who would film their children in a variety of hats and sunglasses as part of a facial geometry project. The project description we reviewed didn’t go into super specifics, but suggested it was part of improving user authentication methods, and getting a more diverse range of participants for that, something that presumably would make your authentication product better.
Now, I don’t write every article because the story is a scandal (although in many cases it can be, such as an abuse by a tech company or specific individual, or whatever). It’s much broader than that: the question isn’t “is this bad,” “it’s ‘is there a public interest in more people knowing about this.” I actually don’t think Google doing this is a “scandal” in and of itself. I do, however, think it very interestingly shows what Google and perhaps other tech companies will do instead of scraping images or videos en masse, or data harvesting their existing collections of user information.