In the midst of the 2013 Google I/O developer conference currently being held in San Francisco, Google CEO Larry Page received a formal letter from eight-members of congress addressing Google Glass privacy issues.
The letter from Congress outlined eight specific areas of concern, asking specifically:
- Does Google have plans to prevent Google Glass from unintentionally collecting data about the user/non-user without consent? (After referencing Google’s agreement to settle charges in 2010 for collecting information from encrypted wireless networks without permission.)
- What proactive steps is Google taking to protect the privacy of non-users when Google Glass is in use?
- When using Google Glass, is it true that this product would be able to use Facial Recognition technology to unveil personal information about whomever or whatever the user is viewing?
- If Google Glass has the capacity to store data, will Google use any user authentication system to safeguard stored data?
The letter also included questions involving the newly released New York Times Google Glass app, and if any privacy measures are being given to developers with plans to create other apps.
Marketing Land editors currently at Google I/O hope to get a comment from Google today regarding the letter.
Update: Google Glass director Steve Lee responded to questions about the Congressional letter during a Google Glass “fireside chat” at the Google I/O conference, saying that the social implications of wearing Glass, not only for users, but for people around those wearing Glass, has been top of mind awareness for Glass developers. Lee said his team moved the display above the eye because eye contact is important; he also commented on how Google takes the trust and reliability of their software very seriously, and that the design of Google Glass ensures that the display is active when the device is in use – this will be policy for developers as well.
In direct reference to Congress’s question regarding data privacy policies, Lee said the Glass team follows the same data policies as the rest of Google in terms of how it handles data gathered through Glass. Lee also spoke directly to the Facial Recognition technology concerns, saying it was prototyped early in development, but isn’t currently in Google Glass product plans; but, Google or third party developers may use it in the future.
Postscript 2: We’ve now received an official formal statement from Google:
We are thinking very carefully about how we design Glass because new technology always raises new issues. Our Glass Explorer program, which reaches people from all walks of life, will ensure that our users become active participants in shaping the future of this technology.