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Google's Arts & Culture App Goes Viral, But Raises Privacy Concerns

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What was thought as a mere fun initiative from Google is now a suspect for an unauthorized intrusion. The Arts & Culture app is being hounded by privacy questions.

A relatively young application, Arts & Culture proved an instant hit and why not. The app is equipped with facial recognition, courtesy of artificial intelligence technology, which analyzes selfie photos and finds matches to famous work of arts.

As expected, the app immediately attracted a huge following as attested by the tons of doppelganger images shared on social media sites. It was cool fun as the thought of being a dead ringer for a celebrated person is obviously exhilarating.

It became inevitable, however, that the Arts & Culture will encounter bumps, serious ones. Fears were raised that the app could also serve as Google's facial recognition database, and could be weaponized for incursions to privacy.

How Arts & Culture App Actually Works

Google, however, downplayed the privacy concerns being floated around in relation to the chief function of its application. The company said the matching feature of the app only kicks in once prompted by users. The app will simply process an uploaded image at an instance then scour its database for possible matches.

"Google is not using these selfies for anything other than art matches," the company said in a statement.

Once the particular task is completed, the processed data will be deleted. As Google explained, it rules out the likelihood of users' database being generated and that the Arts & Culture "will only store your photo for the time it takes to search for matches."

Likewise, the company assured that Arts & Culture has a limited reach at the moment so the scenario of Google keeping a databank of users' likeness from around the world is not happening. At the moment, the app is on a public test release in the United States and there's no telling if international users will get a taste of its features and functions anytime soon.

Precedents For Privacy Concerns

Facial or image recognition is nothing new to Google as the company's search engine allows the use of pictures to perform searches. In addition, the Google Photo app is powered by AI that can sort through images not only of humans but also of animals. For example, a user can identify the specific breed of a dog just by uploading a photo of the pet in question.

Similarly, other tech firms like Apple and Facebook have recently implemented the use of AI-related features that provided their respective services easy access to users' personal data, which include likeness and biometric specimens that triggered valid privacy concerns.

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