Google disappoints Congressman over Glass privacy concerns

Google disappoints Congressman over Glass privacy concerns

Summary: Google's response to privacy worries displayed by U.S. legislators has left some members none the wiser.

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Credit: Rachel King/ZDNet

Texan Representative Joe Barton says he is "disappointed" in Google's response to privacy worries caused by the emergence of Google Glass.

In a statement released after the Congressman reviewed Google's response to a letter sent to the company by members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus -- a group set up to examine the privacy issues Google Glass causes -- Barton believes that the general public needs to be given more choice to ensure their privacy is not violated.

Barton said:

"I am disappointed in the responses we received from Google. There were questions that were not adequately answered and some not answered at all. Google Glass has the potential to change the way people communicate and interact.

When new technology like this is introduced that could change societal norms, I believe it is important that people's rights be protected and vital that privacy is built into the device."

In May, congressional leaders wrote to the tech giant to establish what controls will be put in place to protect consumer privacy.

Addressed to Google CEO Larry Page, the letter (.pdf) questions whether Google Glass will "infringe on the privacy of the average American," and asks what place facial recognition technology will hold in relation to the headset's ability to record video and take photographs.

Google Glass is currently available to developers who have paid $1500 for the prototype. Programmers are being taught how to develop applications for the headset through the Glass Explorer program, so there will be an ecosystem in place before the product is publicly launched next year.

However, the congressional leaders -- including Representatives John Barrow, Steve Chabot, Henry C. Johnson Jr., Walter Jones, Richard Nugent, Bobby Rush and Loretta Sanchez -- are not sure that the technology will provide adequate privacy protection. Google, in response to the letter (.pdf), says that "protecting the security and privacy of our users is one of our top priorities," and one way of doing so is making sure Google Glass requires voice activation to take video footage or shoot images.

In addition, Google says that such actions activate the product's screen, which is a change visible to others.

In order to address facial recognition technology worries -- where personal information about others or objects could be revealed without consent -- the tech giant says that it "will not be approving any facial recognition Glassware at this time," and will "prohibit developers from disabling or turning off the display when using the camera."

No changes in Google's privacy policy are planned with the emergence of Google Glass.

Finally, Google says that all files stored on the device will be deletable by users. Headsets can be remotely wiped in the case of loss or theft, and the firm is currently experimenting with different ways to "lock" Glass flash memory to secure data.

Topics: Google, Emerging Tech, Government US, Privacy

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5 comments
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  • Help memory impaired people

    Shame there are restrictions. I would love an app that would match a friend on Facebook or other social sites with the people around me, putting their name next to the face,

    Just helps those that are hopeless with names
    frank0-3f91e
  • It would help if there were more local processing capability

    as that would allow things to work when cut off from the remote services that are required currently.
    jessepollard
  • Congressmen

    These guys, crack me up. They arent concerned about the government spying on you. No they make up some crap about Google's new toy. Priceless.

    Your government, spending your tax dollars wisely. Again.
    David Lamping
  • Nerdware

    Google Geeks
    Seditionist
  • Privacy

    Don't look behind the Curtain it's just the NSA. Burning copies of 1984 books like that give people bad ideas!
    rockne1865