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Quick tip: How to turn off Google’s facial recognition

Sandra Proske

19.09.19 3 min. read

Google — like Facebook — has been using facial recognition to identify people in photos for years.

If you use Android’s “Trusted Face” feature to unlock your device, this has probably been obvious to you. However, the Face Grouping feature of Google Photos and the new Face Match included in Google’s brand new Nest Hub Max also make use of similar face matching technology.

They know who you are

Facial recognition software presents many complex and potentially worrisome issues that previous generations never had to consider. Two of the most troubling come from the unintended consequences of being identified in images, and how this technology may be used in the future.

You may not want to be tagged in photos that were taken, say, when you were supposed to be at school or work, but facial recognition software will not know that. And we have no idea how these facial fingerprints, for lack of a better term, may be shared with third parties like governments or other companies in the future. Nor do we know how Google, Facebook, or Apple (who uses facial features to lock iOS devices), will eventually capitalize on this ability to identify us almost anywhere as the world fills up with connected devices.

When you add this data to the tremendous amount tech giants already know about many of us, the privacy implications are daunting. While we can’t stop these companies from scanning the photos we and others share with them, we can use the features they offer to limit how this data is collected and used.

Turn of Google’s Nest Hub Max’s Face Match

The simplest solution is to never buy a Nest Hub Max, never use Google Photos and never use Android’s face lock. Easy!

Of course, Google’s extraordinarily powerful search engine combined with its staggering image search capabilities will still exist. So now you’ve denied yourself technology you may want to use without completely solving the problem.

You can get a Nest Hub Max and not use facial recognition by simply never turning Face Match on. If you enabled it by mistake, you can delete your profile and turn Face Match or “face sensing” off in your “device settings.”

Google suggests that you get on Wi-Fi and then:

  1. On your mobile device, open the Google Home app Google Home app.
  2. In the device view, select your Nest Hub MaxSmart display icon.
  3. Tap Device settings and then Recognition and Personalization.
  4. There you can enable or disable camera sensing.
  5. When camera sensing is disabled, then Face Match and Quick Gestures will also be disabled.

Want to go a step further? There’s a switch on the back of the device that disables the camera. Turn that off and Face Match is off too. You will still have a profile that you may want to delete.

Turn off Google Picture’s Face Grouping

If you use Google Pictures, you may have turned Face Grouping on to make your life easier. This is also extremely powerful facial recognition software. Here’s how Google tells you to turn that off:

  1. On your Android phone or tablet, open the Google Photos app .
  2. Sign in to your Google Account.
  3. Tap Menu and then Settings and then Group similar faces.
  4. Turn Face grouping off or on.
    • To turn off face grouping only for pets, turn off Show pets with people.

If you’re using Android’s “Trusted Face,” you’ve given Google a lot of information about your looks.

It’s too late to undo that completely. But you can turn it off. Just go to Settings > Security > Smart Lock > Trusted face and tap Remove Trusted face..


Sandra Proske

19.09.19 3 min. read


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