Google Glass privacy concerns persist in Congress

U.S. representative says he's "disappointed" by Google's response to Congress members who have expressed privacy worries over the wearable tech.

Charlie Osborne Contributing Writer
Charlie Osborne is a cybersecurity journalist and photographer who writes for ZDNet and CNET from London. PGP Key: AF40821B.
Charlie Osborne
2 min read
Google co-founder Sergey Brin wearing Google Glass. James Martin/CNET

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton of Texas says he is "disappointed" in Google's response to privacy worries caused by the emergence of Google Glass.

In a statement released after the Republican congressman reviewed Google's response to a letter sent to the company by members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus -- a group set up to examine the privacy issues Google Glass causes -- Barton said he believes that the general public needs to be given more choice to ensure their privacy is not violated.

Barton said:

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.

In May, congressional leaders wrote to the tech giant to establish what controls will be put in place to protect consumer privacy.

Addressed to Google CEO Larry Page, the letter (PDF) questions whether Google Glass will "infringe on the privacy of the average American," and asks what place facial recognition technology will hold in relation to the headset's ability to record video and take photographs.

Google Glass is currently available to developers who have paid $1,500 for the prototype. Programmers are being taught how to develop applications for the headset through the Glass Explorer program, so there will be an ecosystem in place before the product is publicly launched next year.

However, the congressional leaders -- including Reps. John Barrow, Steve Chabot, Henry C. Johnson Jr., Walter Jones, Richard Nugent, Bobby Rush, and Loretta Sanchez -- are not sure that the technology will provide adequate privacy protection. Google, in response to the letter (PDF), says that "protecting the security and privacy of our users is one of our top priorities," and one way of doing so is making sure Google Glass requires voice activation to take video footage or shoot images.

In addition, Google says that such actions activate the product's screen, which is a change visible to others.

To address facial recognition technology worries -- where personal information about others or objects could be revealed without consent -- the tech giant says that it "will not be approving any facial recognition Glassware at this time," and will "prohibit developers from disabling or turning off the display when using the camera."

No changes in Google's privacy policy are planned with the emergence of Google Glass.

Finally, Google says that all files stored on the device will be deletable by users. Headsets can be remotely wiped in the case of loss or theft, and the company is currently experimenting with different ways to "lock" Glass flash memory to secure data.

This story originally appeared as "Google disappoints Congressman over Glass privacy concerns" on ZDNet.