Congress demands answers from Google over Glass privacy concerns

Members of Congress have highlighted privacy concerns over Google Glass and the possible misuse of information.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer
Credit: Rachel King/ZDNet

A group of Congress members have sent a letter to Google seeking answers to privacy and data concerns caused by Google Glass.

The letter (.pdf), addressed to CEO Larry Page, was sent by eight members of Congress led by U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, Texas. The members of the Congressional bipartisan Privacy Caucus say they are concerned about possible misuse of information gathered by Google's new product, and whether Google Glass will "infringe on the privacy of the average American."

The headset, which is able to record video footage and take photos based on voice commands, has already been jailbroken within the developer phase. Modified enough, Glass could be used to innocuously record everything around you without any indicative behaviour or phrases.

See alsoExploring Google Glass: A fitting appointment, step-by-step (slideshow)

The letter's delivery comes as the tech giant holds its annual developer conference, Google I/O in San Francisco. Developers -- and those who have paid $1500 for the prototype -- are currently being tutored on how to develop apps for Google Glass, and the Glass Explorer program is designed to create the application ecosystem before the product's official launch sometime next year.

The Congress members ask whether the product will use facial recognition technology to unveil personal information about others or objects, and whether data could be collected without the consent of others -- and if Google plans to prevent this in some way. In addition, the letter cites a case in 2010 where the tech giant was collecting information from unsecured wireless networks across the globe, which resulted in Google paying out $7 million in damages. The letter acknowledges this situation was rectified, but asks how Google plans to ensure Google Glass will not unintentionally collect data from either the user or non-users without permission.

Other concerns raised include whether the new product -- when launched -- will prove to be a catalyst for the tech giant to make additional changes within its privacy policies, and if Google Glass will both collect and store data on the device itself. If information is stored, the Congress members wish to know whether security measures will be put in place to safeguard stored data.

Additional signatories of the letter include Representatives John Barrow, Steve Chabot, Henry C. Johnson Jr., Walter Jones, Richard Nugent, Bobby Rush and Loretta Sanchez. Answers have been requested by June 14. The Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus is focused on investigating the data and privacy implications and practices of large organizations and corporations, including Google, Amazon, Apple and the Social Security Administration.

Editorial standards