Google Bans Facial Recognition In Glass Apps For Now
June 3, 2013

Google Bans Facial Recognition In Glass Apps For Now

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

As it stands, Google Glass is facing enough hurdles and obstacles as it heads towards public availability. Many have wondered how many people will be willing to pay $1,500 for a pair of glasses that have been described as “geeky” by many reviewers and lookers-on. Making matters worse is the potential of these spectacles, such as recording point-of-view video with little outward evidence and the ability to take a picture simply by winking. Last week Google addressed another potentially creepy capability of the glasses, saying they won´t allow developers to write facial recognition apps for Glass“¦yet.

“We've been listening closely to you, and many have expressed both interest and concern around the possibilities of facial recognition in Glass,” begins Google´s statement posted on the Project Glass Google+ page.

“As Google has said for several years, we won´t add facial recognition features to our products without having strong privacy protections in place. With that in mind, we won´t be approving any facial recognition Glassware at this time.”

This isn´t the first time Google has claimed they won´t use facial recognition. The company said as much last month when members of congress asked for answers about this new technology. In a letter written to chief executive Larry Page, these lawmakers asked eight questions about Google´s intentions for Glass, the devices capabilities, and Google´s plans for storing data captured by the glasses. The group asked Page to respond by June 14, but the director of product management for Glass, Steve Lee, specifically addressed the question of facial recognition when the letter was first issued. His statement is similar to last week´s claim: “We´ve consistently said that we won´t add new face recognition features to our services unless we have strong privacy protections in place,” said Lee.

Though Google will be rejecting facial recognition apps for the time being, it hasn´t stopped some developers from pursuing this possibility. One startup has already developed a facial recognition API to be used with Google Glass. The startup, Lambda Labs, is currently taking beta-testers to tryout their new APIs.

This isn´t the first time Google has had to go on the defensive against claims that their headwear crosses the creepy line. When reviewers and developers first got their hands on Glass, they began to snap pictures and take videos with the simple voice command, “Ok Glass, take a picture.” In his hands-on-review, Joshua Topolsky of The Verge mentioned that some people may not realize when a picture is being taken or a video recorded. There´s a small display over the right eye which lights up an LED when these actions are being performed, but some may not realize they´re in the shot. To address these concerns, Google has restricted any apps that disable this LED when pictures or videos are being taken. Glass has also been seen as a potential nuisance for drivers. In March, one West Virginia Lawmaker proposed the first bill to ban the use of Glass when behind the wheel.

According to Republican Gary Howell, this device could endanger the young and tech-savvy that wear the device, as well as those they share the road with, similar to texting and driving.