Members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus are the latest to join the many people raising concerns about GoogleGlass in a letter to Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page in which they request answers to eight pointed questions.
Since the technology was introduced, GoogleGlass has been incredibly controversial, even leading former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to speak out against the technology.
Many venues have preemptively banned Glass including a Seattle bar, casinos and strip clubs in Las Vegas and the entire state of West Virginia is trying to ban wearing Glass while driving, according to the Independent.
“Respect our customers privacy as we’d expect them to respect yours,” stated Seattle’s Five Point Café, becoming the first to ban Glass, according to Reuters. Some movie theaters may also join the trend.
Yet Google figures have been quick to dismiss any and all concerns.
“Criticisms are inevitably from people who are afraid of change or who have not figured out that there will be an adaptation of society to it,” Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said during a talk at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in April.
Never mind the fact that Glass can easily be hacked and turned into a pervasive surveillance device. That’s just being afraid of change.
One of the questions posed by members of Congress in their letter concerned facial recognition capabilities.
Google claims that no facial recognition technology is built into the device and there are no plans to implement it “unless we have strong privacy protections in place.”
However, most readers are likely aware of the fact that the technology could indeed be rolled out silently or indeed built into the device without Google admitting it.
After all, we’re talking about the same company that knowingly stole private data from unsecured wireless networks with their Street View cars.
Even though Google was clearly guilty of massive invasions of privacy on a scale previously unimaginable, the FCC cleared the company of wrongdoing and contradicted a federal judge in doing so.
In March of this year, a report indicated that Google was going to pay $7 million to 30 states to settle an investigation into their Wi-Fi spying but such a sum for Google is nothing.
When Google can get out of an antitrust probe and investigations into theft of highly personaldata with less than a slap on the wrist, why would we trust them to be honest about Glass?
The members of Congress point to Google’s horrific privacy track record and ask, “we would like to know how Google plans to prevent Google Glass from unintentionally collecting data about the user/non-user without consent?”
Some of the many other important questions asked include:
- What proactive steps is Google taking to protect the privacy of non-users when Google Glass is in use?
- Would Google place limits on the technology and what type of information it can reveal about another person?
- Would Google Glass collect any data about the user without the user’s knowledge and consent?
- Is Google planning to make privacy a priority for future app developers?
“We request your responses to the above questions no later than Friday, June 14, 2013,” the members of Congress stated.
At a Google Glass event at the Google I/O conference, some of the questions were indirectly addressed.
“Privacy was top of mind as we designed the product,” Steve Lee, the product director for Glass, said.
“You’ll know when someone with Glass is paying attention to you. If you’re looking at Glass, you’re looking up,” Lee said, referring to the fact that the Glass display located right above the eye, according to ABC News.
“We are thinking very carefully about how we design Glass because new technology always raises new issues,” Google said in a statement. “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.”
The future of the technology may not be all that bright.
“There are state wiretap laws that require consent of a user before they are recorded. Users may violate state wiretap laws while using Glass,” Brad Shear, a Washington-area attorney and blogger, told ABC news.
It will be interesting to see if the members of Congress will publish Google’s specific answers to their probing and quite appropriate questions and concerns.
How the story actually put anyone in danger, even if the AP is lying about getting the story cleared by the government, is unclear.
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