Google is no stranger to privacy debates, but Google Glass seems to have really struck a nerve with privacy proponents. It seemed like we were on the verge of an entirely new debate when a third-party developer announced its intentions to launch a facial recognition app for Glass. That debate will have to wait, however, as Google has put a stop to facial recognition development for now.
On Friday, the official Project Glass Google+ page announced that it would not approve any facial recognition software for Glass until strong privacy protections are in place:
When we started the Explorer Program nearly a year ago our goal was simple: we wanted to make people active participants in shaping the future of this technology ahead of a broader consumer launch. We've been listening closely to you, and many have expressed both interest and concern around the possibilities of facial recognition in Glass. 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.
We’ve learned a lot from you in just a few weeks and we’ll continue to learn more as we update the software and evolve our policies in the weeks and months ahead.
In short, privacy proponents can breathe easy for now. In the long term, however, those same privacy proponents have their work cut out for them. Even if Google implements stringent privacy protections, people will still be unhappy about the existence of any facial recognition in Glass.
The debate will rage on for months, and even years, as Google Glass and hardware like it continues to evolve. For now, there's a simple solution to the privacy debate though. Privacy warriors just have to convince every Google Glass owner to wear one of these privacy covers when out in public. That should be easy enough, right?