Google Glass Privacy Issues Prompt Congress To Ask Questions
May 18, 2013

Privacy Concerns Prompt Congress To Request More Info About Google Glass

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

US lawmakers concerned over potential privacy abuses associated with Google Glass have contacted the Mountain View, California-based tech giant for clarification about the project, various media outlets are reporting.

According to BBC News, the letter was addressed to Google CEO Larry Page and signed by eight members of the bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus. Among the questions it poses is whether or not Google plans to use facial recognition technology in conjunction with the project, which consists of a wearable computer with a head-mounted display.

In addition, the lawmakers wanted to know what measures the company would be taking to prevent unintentionally collecting data without user consent — which it did in 2010, resulting in the company agreeing to pay $7 million to settle claims in 38 different states — and what they plan to do to protect non-users when Glass is in use.

“The letter, addressed to Google boss Larry Page, pointed out that the company did not have an unblemished history when it came to handling personal information,” the BBC said. “It mentioned the widespread criticism Google faced and the fines it had to pay after it inadvertently scooped up data from unprotected Wi-Fi networks while gathering information for its Street View service.”

“The politicians want to know how Google will ensure it does not repeat that mistake,” the British news outlet added. “In addition, the Congressmen want to know what Google's policy is for handling the privacy of non-users and how it will respect the wishes of those who do not want to be identified or have any information about them taken from social media sites.”

They are asking Google to respond to a total of eight inquiries by June 14. However, while not a formal response to the letter, Google Glass product director Steve Lee did address privacy issues during a fireside chat with developers, according to Ina Fried of All Things D.

“From the beginning, the social implications “¦ of Glass, of people wearing Glass, has been at the top of our mind,” Lee said, adding that those concerns also extended to individuals who do not use Glass but are in the same vicinity of someone who is using the device.

He emphasized that pressing a button or issuing a voice command is required in order to take a picture, and that the screen lights up when Google Glass is active. Lee also said that Glass will operate under Google´s existing privacy policy in terms of data collection, and that the company had “experimented” with facial recognition technology but that such software is not currently included in the product at this time.