Lawmakers Display Uncertainty About Google’s New Glasses


May 20, 2013

On May 17, 2013, eight members of Congress demanded that Google address the amplitude of privacy concerns relating to Google Glass, its new wearable technology device. They wrote a letter that was addressed to Google’s Chief Executive, Larry Page that outlined eight different questions for Google.  They’ve asked for a response by June 14th.

The letter stated that Congress is curious as to whether or not this new technology would invade the privacy of the average American; Google hasn’t released the device yet, and Congress is uncertain about Google’s possible plans to incorporate adequate privacy protections into their new Google Glass. Privacy concerns on issues such as unwanted recordings have already been raised.

The request came from the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, after Google displayed their new device at its annual I/O Developers Conference in San Francisco. Google also gave software developers information on building applications for the device; and introduced seven new applications, including ones from CNN, Twitter and Facebook.

The Google glasses will connect to the Internet, allowing users to take photographs, send text messages, record and watch videos and post to social media websites. They’re not for sale to the general public as of this date.

Joe Barton, a Republican and Representative from Texas, is the co-chairman of The Caucus. They asked many questions including how Google would store and collect data from the devices; how they would protect the privacy of people who aren’t using Google Glass when they’re with people who are using it; whether or not the device would have face-recognition technology; and how they’ll ensure the device doesn’t collect private data unintentionally.

Steve Lee, Director of Product Management for Google Glass, addressed the issue of face recognition in a statement saying:

“We have consistently said that we will not be adding new face recognition features to our services until we have strong privacy protections.”

Past products from Google have resulted in privacy violation punishments for the company, including two settlements with the Federal Trade Commission. The first one was from a social networking tool, and the second was with 38 different states regarding the collection of data during Google’s “Street View” mapping project.

Mr. Lee addressed other concerns in the letter by stating that Google Glass has followed all of the data-collection and privacy policies, and that Google has built social cues into the device to help prevent certain privacy violations. To shoot or record a video, or to take a photograph users will need to press a button or speak to Google Glass, and look directly at whatever they’re attempting to capture.  However, one developer stated that he’s built an application for the device that will allow users to take a photograph with a just a wink of the eye.

Google spokesman Chris Dale said they’re taking extreme caution while designing Google Glass because new issues are often raised by new technology. He also said that Google was selling early versions to anyone who signs up for them; the cost will be $1,500. This is to ensure that their users will become active participants in creating the future of this technology.

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