Google Tells Congress: We’re Not Changing Our Privacy Policy For Google Glass

google-my-glass-iconGoogle says it has no plans to change its company-wide privacy policy for the eventual public launch of Google Glass.

That’s one of the discoveries in a four-page letter dated June 7th that Google sent to Congressman Joe Barton, co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus — the group that sent Google a letter back in May with numerous questions about privacy and Google Glass.

The fifth of eight questions that the caucus presented to Google mentions the “sensory and processing capabilities” that Glass has, and asks if Google has “considered making any additions or refinements to its privacy policy.”

Google’s letter (download the PDF), which is signed by VP of Public Policy and Government Relations Susan Molinari, says no — Google isn’t planning any such changes just because of Glass.

Use of Google Glass will be governed by the terms of the Google Privacy Policy and no changes to the Google Privacy Policy are planned for Glass.

The includes a couple other new bits of privacy-related about Glass:

Selling/Transferring Glass

Although Glass Explorers — the current group of Glass owners that are essentially guinea pigs testing the device before public launch — aren’t allowed to sell or give Glass to anyone else, Google knows it won’t be able to stop the public from doing the same.

“While we ask participants in our Explorer program not to sell or transfer their Glass,” Molinari writes, “users who someday transfer Glass to others will have options for removing their content from the device.”

That’s possible now, actually — at least to some degree. Every photo or video stored on Glass can be deleted manually. In the “MyGlass” website, which serves as a control center for the device, there’s also a “Factory Reset” button that would wipe-out data on Glass.


Molinari’s reply, though, gives the impression that there may be some middle-ground options in development — something easier than manually removing every photo or video one at a time, and less dramatic than wiping the entire device clean.

Google Working On “Lock” Option For Lost Glass

Just as I can add “lock” protection to my iPhone to prevent strangers from getting into my stuff if I lose it, Google says it’s working on a similar tool for Glass owners:

“We are experimenting with ‘lock’ solutions to determine what would work best for this type of device,” Molinari says. “In the event a device is misplaced or somehow compromised, users can use their Google account to login to MyGlass and initiate a remote wipe of all data stored on Glass, as described above.”

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Google also add “Find My Glass” capabilities, similar to apps that let smartphone owners locate their missing phones.

Rep. Barton Isn’t Impressed

Barton, the Texas representative whose office sent the original letter to Google, isn’t impressed with Google’s answers to the caucus’ privacy questions. He issued this statement today:

I am disappointed in the responses we received from Google. There were questions that were not adequately answered and some not answered at all. Google Glass has the potential to change the way people communicate and interact. When new technology like this is introduced that could change societal norms, I believe it is important that people’s rights be protected and vital that privacy is built into the device. I look forward to continuing a working relationship with Google as Google Glass develops.

Barton doesn’t get any more specific about which questions weren’t answered or weren’t answered adequately. (In my reading of Google’s letter, it looks like every question was answered.)

The Problem with the Glass Privacy Debate

The bigger problem here is that Congress (and Canadian privacy officials, too) are asking questions about a device that

  • they don’t have
  • they don’t know how it works, and
  • will no doubt change between now and the time it’s available to the public

The same applies to a lot of the articles that have been written about Glass and privacy. There are definite privacy issues that Glass raises, and Congress/Canada are right to ask (especially gives Google’s track record on privacy; see the WiSpy or Google Buzz episodes, for example) but a lot of the public discussion so far is too heavy with hype and too light on substance.

Google could’ve perhaps been more specific in a couple of its answers to Congress’ original letter, and it could do more to explain how Glass works than to say, “Hey, just watch this 68-second video.” (Yes, Molinari’s letter links to that YouTube video and invites Barton and the caucus to have a look.)

But I find Google’s response to be about as good as it could be, at least for now. As Google warns, though, “we are still actively working on Glass, so the information provided here may change prior to our full consumer release of the product.”

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Google: Glass | Google: Privacy | Legal: Privacy | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Marketing Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • CubeScripts Media

    I am not sure why is such a big fuss around the glass. It will be just like any other technology. It will became invisible at some point. Google is definitely not the first one to think and develop something like this.

  • Matt McGee

    Yeah, there’s way too much hysterics about Glass. Mostly from people that have never used it.

  • Chris Johnson

    I wish that congress was qualified to use the products they attempted to regulate. That would be a great “first step” towards something resembling sanity.

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