Knock Knock, it’s Google: Will Duo use your images for marketing purposes?

by | Aug 17, 2016 | News, Technology

With the release of Google’s new video calling app, Google Duo, the news media is abuzz with questions on the implications for competitor services such as Apple’s Facetime.

But Laurie Sullivan of MediaPost recently posed a different question: “will the images and audio from the app become another data point that Google will use to target advertisements?

Google Duo is an application that works with both Android and Apple devices, allowing users of these mobile phones to make video calls. One of the unique features of the application, and the one that seems of most concern to Sullivan, is called Knock Knock.

Unless the user disables the feature, Knock Knock initiates the user’s camera to provide a preview of the caller. On Android, Knock Knock will work regardless of whether the app is open.

But should the possibility that Google may have new access to our images raise concern?

At this time the legitimacy of such concerns is difficult, if not impossible, to determine. What is known, though, is that image recognition technology that could be used to analyze our images does exist.

Companies such as GumGum specialize in analyzing posted social media images for marketing data. These companies use image recognition technologies to identify key features of posted images, and the presence of brand names or a brand’s product can be picked out of the image by these technologies.

These companies provide this information to marketers, who then target advertisements towards posters based on the data. This means that if you post a photo with a Starbucks cup, marketers can then target advertisements about Starbucks or coffee to you.

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Google uses similar image recognition technology to determine search results. With Google Cloud Vision API Google can determine what categories an image fits into. Similarly the technology involved in Google Goggles allows you to search for information about your own images: if you take a photo of a monument, for example, you can then use Google Googles to get background info on that monument.

And Google isn’t alone in actively developing this technology: Yahoo, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook have all bought companies that develop image recognition technology.

So clearly it’s possible that our images could be used to target advertisements towards us, with Google being among those most capable of doing this.

But the question remains: will the company use Knock Knock for marketing purposes?

Chantelle Brule
After receiving her Master's in Communications from Carleton University, Chantelle brought her research experience to Agility's Media Insights team as a data analyst. She's particularly good at what she does.