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  • Writer's pictureWGON

Google sued by Texas over ‘invasive’ collection of voice and face data

Texas sued Google on Thursday for allegedly collecting residents’ facial and voice data without their consent — and accused the tech giant of turning millions of everyday Texans into “unwitting cash cows being milked by Google for profits.”

State attorney general Ken Paxton alleged in the suit that Google violated a state law that bars companies from collecting people’s faces, voices, fingerprints and other biometric information without their explicit consent.

“Google has, since at least 2015, collected biometric data from innumerable Texans and used their faces and their voices to serve Google’s commercial ends,” Paxton wrote in the suit. “The proliferation of the commercialization of Texans’ personal biometric identifiers is as invasive as it is dangerous.”

Paxton claimed that Google’s improper data collection occurred through products including Google Photos, the company’s voice-activated Google Assistant service and the Nest Hub Max home smart display.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton accused Google of turning Texas into “unwitting cash cows.”

For example, the suit points to a feature called “face grouping” in Google Photos that recognizes multiple photos of the same person. Even if the user who uploads photos to Google consents to facial recognition, everyone else in their photos likely did not, according to the suit.

“To Google, it does not matter that the three-year-olds, the bystanders, and grandma never consented to Google capturing and recording their biometric data,” the complaint reads.

Google then used the data it allegedly gathered without people’s consent to improve its artificial intelligence algorithms, according to the suit.

The company could face a $25,000 fine for each violation under Texas law.

In a statement to The Post, Google spokesperson José Castañeda blasted Paxton for “once again mischaracterizing our products in another breathless lawsuit.”

“For example, Google Photos helps you organize pictures of people, by grouping similar faces, so you can easily find old photos,” Castañeda said. “Of course, this is only visible to you, you can easily turn off this feature if you choose and we do not use photos or videos in Google Photos for advertising purposes.

“The same is true for Voice Match and Face Match on Nest Hub Max, which are off-by-default features that give users the option to let Google Assistant recognize their voice or face to show their information. We will set the record straight in court.”

Paxton’s latest lawsuit resembles another complaint he filed against Meta in February under the same state law.

The Texas attorney general also leads a group of states who are suing Google for alleged monopolization of the online advertising market — and filed a separate suit against the search giant in May for allegedly misleading users about the privacy offered by Google Chrome’s “incognito mode.”

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