Google Tries To Sell Government On Glass Privacy. Are You Sold?

    July 2, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Back in May, the bipartisan congressional Privacy Caucus sent an open letter to Google CEO Larry Page asking for clarification on Google Glass and the privacy issues that come with the device. In early June, Google VP, Public Policy and Government Relations, Susan Molinari, sent a response letter.

Do you have concerns about privacy when it comes to devices like Google Glass and other wearable technology? Let us know in the comments.

Joe Barton, co-chairman of the Privacy Caucus, has now issued a statement about Google’s response, and shared Google’s letter in its entirety. Suffice it to say, he’s not exactly pleased with the company’s response.

“I am disappointed in the responses we received from Google,” says Barton. “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.”

Here are some highlights from Google’s response:

“As we do for all our products, we are carefully reviewing the design of Glass for privacy considerations as part of Google’s comprehensive privacy program. This includes designing Glass with privacy in mind and ensuring Google has obtained appropriate consent from Glass users.

“We have built Glass to put users in control. Users will have access to their own “MyGlass” site (www.google.com/myglass) and MyGlass mobile application, which will give them a place to monitor the status of their Glass, manage settings, and decide which items or applications will appear on Glass.”

“We have also built some social signals into the way Glass is used. These signals help people understand what users are doing, and give Glass users means for employing etiquette in any given situation. One important feature is that Glass requires user commands to take a photo or record video – actions that also cause the Glass screen to activate, which is visible to others. As you point out in your letter, some parties have already taken measures to address the use of existing technology – such as cell phones, laptops or cameras – in certain circumstances. We expect these types of rules to continue to evolve as more wearable technologies come to market.”

“Our commitment to putting users in control extends to the policies we’ve created for developers making applications for Glas, also called Glassware. For example, Google has said for several years that 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 also prohibit developers from disabling or turning off the display when using the camera. The display must become active when taking a picture and stay active during a video recording as part of your application.”

“While we ask participants in our Explorer program not to sell or transfer their Glass, users who someday transfer Glass to others will have options for removing their content from the device. Glass displays items like photos, videos, and text messages in a timeline, along with a ‘delete’ option to remove them from that timeline. The ‘delete’ function is one way to remove content from Glass. Also, the MyGlass site and app mentioned above will give users the ability to disable specific items (including Gmail, Google+ and Now) from Glass and to perform a factory reset, which will wipe all of their data from the device. Users who lose their Glass can likewise make use of these MyGlass site and app features.”

Glass does have flash memory capable of storing data. This includes storage of information that assists with the operation of the device, such as software libraries and application information. The flash memory can also be used to store user content, such as photos and video, to ensure those moments are saved even when Glass does not have an Internet connection. We are experimenting with ‘lock’ solutions to determine what would work best for this type of device. In the event that 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.”

Google notes in the letter that Glass will be governed by the terms of its broad privacy policy (which took effect in early 2012), and not changes related to Glass are planned. This particular policy has already drawn the ire of some governments, and Google continues to face battles on that front to this day.

Based on Barton’s response, it does not appear that Google has sold the Privacy Caucus on Glass privacy. Has the company’s response alleviated your concerns? Let us know in the comments.

  • jerry

    Google should not be allow to make such a product. Even though features are in place for privacy. It’s to easy to over-ride or not use those features.

  • Bob Rodriguez

    There is no doubt that there are privacy issues as well as copywrite infringement isses. What is the difference between banning cameras at a concert or GG? Which one is more likely to get through secuity checkpoints.

    Just forget about privacy. Get ready for the new “sting”. Big Brother is definitely watching this!

  • https://sites.google.com/site/justsayingmypiece/home/ Charlie

    OK, so here we are with Google Glass™ on the verge of coming into mainstream use (well, maybe not right away, but…). Back a few months, I remember commenting on the privacy issues I knew would be associated with such technology, since it’s just “too easy” to record photographs and/or videos “without the subjects’ knowledge or permission”.

    On one hand, I can completely understand why this could be a huge issue, because some people will simply abuse Google Glass™ and use it for “all the wrong reasons”.

    On the other hand, it could be a true ‘blessing in disguise’ in some circumstances…for instance, if someone happens to record something which can be used for evidence in certain criminal situations, or perhaps someone records other pertinent and helpful photos or videos that can be used for “goodness”.

    And, if we really think about it, most major cities have cameras everywhere that are already recording much of the everyday activity in the vicinity of the cameras. Law-enforcement makes good use of some of these when trying to solve certain crimes, and I guess the “privacy issues” must not apply when it’s the government who is recording things, y’know?

    That said, I’m still of the opinion that Google Glass™ might face many roadblocks going forward…at least until the government and law-enforcement figures out how to legislate John Q. Public’s “appropriate use” for the technology.

    I think perhaps we all need to understand that “public places are simply NOT private places, thus our behavior in public places should be fair-game for anyone to record”. After all, travelers, vacationers, documentary producers, (etc.) have been taking photos and videos of “strangers” in public places for years, haven’t they? Is Google Glass™ really anything that different? The technology is not really “new”; it is more a case of how existing technology is being miniaturized and put to use in a new and different manner, y’know?
    I’m just sayin’…

  • http://wredlich.com/ny Warren Redlich

    Maybe we should let Google get the product working and see if anyone buys it before we go crazy regulating the hell out of it.

  • Observer

    “Government”, “Google”, and “Privacy” all in the same sentence… hahahahaha… thank you! I always love to start my day off with a good laugh!

  • http://saliu.com/google-search-google-shit.html Ion Saliu

    DracGoogla is a company crowded with insane idiots, a large percentage of them outsourced. Google Glass is a blunt act of insanity and governments worldwide should ban it. It is a hazard to public safety.

    Google represents insanity alright. But those cowards who are afraid to express their true thoughts (because DracGoogla might punish cruelly) are even more despicable (and disgusting)!

  • Eric

    I would like to see any government with limited access to individuals privacy with regards to the “glass” & or any other devices. As long as companies like Google are protecting their customers. I’m sure these big companies do monitor for national security issues which governments are aware off.

  • http://www.revolution2.0.com Paul Revere

    This just BS for public consumption.
    Two main reasons why:

    1. We all know the US gov’t doesn’t give a damn about privacy
    2. Google was funded by DARPA to begin with. It’s their baby.

  • http://www.empowerednetwork.com/melsteve Steve

    How can the government complain about Google privacy in the light of what Snowden has revealed about government spying on our every email,txt,an phone call.

  • Brian B

    Here we go again with those avaricious Fascists at small ‘g’ google.
    I can see one day this intrusive garbage will record someone that doesn’t want to be filmed/scanned…and the results will be violent.
    Personally, if I ever feel I’ve been image-captured without my permission [even by accident], I would aim to erase that capture.
    I can see yobs recording their graffiti damages, doing extrovert, disruptive, antisocial, unpleasant and obscene activities just to post notoriously. What society doesn’t need more of is extrovert, drunken, abusive, aggressive or intrusive people.
    It is time google was banned from what it is planning here, else we can all look forward to a life under a hood or a burka. HOW DARE THEY…except your government loves the idea. This direction is extremely dangerous to society and will eventually create an open police-state. Nil benefits worth having. Big Brother United is what this will become, as it destroys society entirely.

  • Brian B

    Just had a half-decent idea that perhaps some of your readers can provide the tech development skills to create.
    Let’s just wait a while longer until google have tipped in a few more billion developing this nasty product…and then:-
    WE release our very own Glass-Signal-Blocker App that electronically destroys the ability of this intrusive junk to take ANY images at all.

    That should do it. One up the *** for google. Love it!!

  • https://my-vapor-shoppe.com Jason

    This is further proof that Google is in support with the OUT OF CONTROL progressive government that is destroying our privacy, rights and freedoms. The main point I want to make: Does everyone know the email that you receive/send in your Gmail account can NEVER be deleted. When you delete it; it will still be there in the label named ALL MAIL. I have mail I deleted 7 years ago that is still connected to that label. When I delete my mail I expect it is deleted! I do not like Google or Android because of this. I use Gmail on a limited basis and in reference to Android, well it is the best. I hate the loss of rights/privacy. We all need to speak up and stop the destruction of our freedom and liberty!

    • http://totalwebservices.net Dmitriy S

      Jason, you’re referring to the “Archive” function of Gmail. Archiving only removes “Inbox” label, so it doesn’t appear in the inbox, but is still searchable and is available under “All Mail”. Deleting removes the email completely and permanently, as far as I know.

  • John Owles

    Privacy fundemental to life and democracy. Anything that undermines this fact in any way should not see the light of day.