Google Cancels Contract With Search Quality Rating And AI Data Company

Google has terminated its contract with Australian data company Appen, which helped the technology company train its large language model (LLM) artificial intelligence (AI) tools used in Bard and also supported the company's quality ratings effort for Search.

Quality ratings, as Google describes them, are used to determine how helpful the results are to users and whether the results met the needs of the person searching.

Page-quality ratings determine whether Google is showing quality search results.

Google said it works with about 16,000 external Search Quality Raters who provide ratings based on its guidelines and represent real users and their expected information needs, using their best judgment to represent their location.



The contract with Appen accounted for about one third of Appen’s business revenue, according to reports, although the company also supports and trains AI models for Microsoft, Nvidia, Meta, Apple, Adobe, and Amazon.

Google’s parent company Alphabet notified Appen of the termination last weekend. It takes effect March 19, according to a filing from Appen.

The company said it had “no prior knowledge of Google’s decision to terminate the contract.”

Appen reported Q4 on Q3 growth in both Global Services and New Market, which included China. On a year-over-year basis, Global Services Q4 2023 revenue was down, while New Markets, including China, rose. Within the New Markets division, China achieved a quarterly revenue record in Q42023 of $11.1 million, the company reported.

CNBC learned
 in September, through former employees who requested that they not be identified, that the company struggles to "pivot to generative AI reflects years of weak quality controls and a disjointed organizational structure."

Appen employs 1 million skilled contractors who speak more than 235 languages and are based in 170 countries, according to The Guardian.

They label photographs, text, audio and other data to improve AI systems used by large technology companies such as Google. The report says they have been referred to as “ghost workers” – the unseen human labor involved in training systems that people use every day.

A spokesperson for Google told the Guardian that the decision to end the contract “was made as part of our ongoing effort to evaluate and adjust many of our supplier partnerships across Alphabet to ensure our vendor operations are as efficient as possible.”

The quality rating work will be transitioned to new suppliers, Google told The Guardian, suggesting that Appen is one of dozens of contractors affected by the company’s review to find savings and efficiencies.

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