Should Facial Recognition Be Allowed On Google Glass?

    May 28, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

The “Terminator” films have been mentioned more than a handful of times in discussions about Google Glass, and this is not going to do anything to make the comparison less relevant. Facial recognition is reportedly coming to Google Glass, potentially opening up the doors for anybody to have Terminator-like features.

Are you concerned about the future of privacy with regards to devices like Google Glass? Tell us what you think.

Google itself is not offering facial recognition with Google Glass. At least not yet. But that’s not stopping others from developing the technology for the device.

Matt Warman at The Telegraph, noting that Google’s terms do not forbid the use of the device for facial recognition, reports that San Francisco-based Lambbda Labs is set to launch its API to developers “in days”. He writes, “The first version of Lamda Labs software forces users take photographs, tag them with information on who is in them and then compare any subsequent photographs taken to those previously uploaded. Future versions, however, may allow real-time recognition of faces.”

Sarah Connor?

Come to think of it, this could prove even more precise than Terminator features, because even the Terminator got the wrong Sarah Connor to begin with.

Google has reportedly said that it will not implement its own facial recognition technology in Glass, until it has prviacy protections in place.

The bi-partisan congressional Privacy Caucus recently sent an open letter to Google CEO Larry Page asking for clarification on various Glass issues. Included were these questions:

When using Google Glass, is it true that this product would be able to use Facial Recognition Technology to unveil personal information about whomever and even som inanimate objects that the user is viewing? Would a user be able to request such information? Can a non-user or human subject opt out of this collection of personal data? If so, How? If not, why not?

In Google’s privacy policy, it states that the company “may reject requests that are unreasonably repetitive, require disproportionate technical effort…risk the privacy of others, or would be extremely impractical.” Please provide examples of when Google would reject requests on Google Glass that would risk the privacy of others? Would Google place limits on the technology and what type of information it can reveal about another person? If so, please explain. If not, why not?

They gave Page until June 14h to respond to concerns (which were not limited to these specifically).

Beyond the obvious privacy implications, there are good things that could become of such capabilities. As Warman notes, people have suggested examples like apps for doormen to make admission to events easier or software for disabled people. Perhaps a blind person, for example, could use the device to capture a person’s face, and then be told whose face is in front of them via audio.

TechCrunch recently spoke with Lambda Labs co-founder Stephen Balaban. Sarah Perez reports:

Applied to Glass, the technology will enable apps such as “remember this face,” “find your friends in a crowd,” “networking event interest matching,” “intelligent contact books,” and more, Balaban explains

According to Warman, there are already 1,000 developers working with Lambda Labs’ software, generating five million attempts at recognition per month, and that’s without Glass. And that’s just one company’s software. Consider the possibility that many others could implement their own facial recognition capabilities with various features attached.

Facebook, for example has over a billion users, and it already has an app for Glass. Less than a year ago, the company bought facial recognition company Face.com. Here’s an interview we did with Face.com CEO Gil Hirsch before the acquisition.

Google, of course, has its own facial recognition capabilities, and it would be pretty surprising if it didn’t implement them at some point. In fact, the company acquired Viewdle, a facial recognition and augmented reality company, as recently as last fall.

More recently, at Google I/O earlier this month, Google revealed some new photo features for Google+, including the ability to automatically sort photos by landmark, human presence, aesthetics and other indicators. It’s getting better at recognizing what is in an image.

Of course many have expressed concerns about facial recognition technology regardless of whether or not Google Glass is involved. A Memorial Day report from the Associated Press suggests that “drones with facial recognition technology will end anonymity, everywhere.”

“Adding that capability to drones that can fly into spaces where planes cannot — machines that can track a person moving about and can stay aloft for days — means that people will give up privacy as well as the concept of anonymity,” writes Andrew Conte.

Conte has a whole series of reports on this stuff here.

“People are interested to harvest as much information they can from photos and videos… to connect with other people,” Hirsch said of his own Face.com in our interview. “It’s just another platform to connect with other people.”

To some, that’s what the technology, in general, has to offer users of a device like Google Glass. Others, however, are concerned that not everyone with access to the technology will have people’s best interests in mind.

It’s going to be quite interesting to see how Google handles these concerns. It’s been in trouble for privacy-related issus more than once in the past, and still has to answer to Congress. And this is really only one of the concerns they have (there were about ten in the letter).

Meanwhile, others are more concerned about devices like Glass for different reasons entirely, including how oblivious they could make people to what else is going on around them, and the implications they could have for traffic safety.

Google Glass is currently only available to a select few. Consumers should be able to get their hands (and eyes) on the device in another year or so.

Should Google allow developers to offer facial recognition capabilities on Google Glass? Should Google implement its own? Let us know what you think.

Image: Lambda Labs

  • Joooberdoober

    Google=SkyNet! Not too long from now the “Google Glass” will become self aware and try to kill us all!

  • http://www.schneider-insurance.com/ Schneider

    What’s the difference between a smartphone and glass, we can’t stop the future. Funny that this new technology will perhaps encourage people to start wearing disguises!

    • Bob Teal

      I think people will steal any info from you with it like your credit card or bank info lol. Can you say identity theft. We cannot just let anyone do anything they want you know or we will have a real crappy world.

  • Robert

    you even tell about face recognition on google glasses? oh, yes, google glasses must be connected to observers online, it must record video & audio non-stop, it must recognize faces and send daily reports to observers. It new level of spyware, by google, everything for “users pleasure”.

  • http://Wredlich.com Warren Redlich

    Who dares to claim the power to allow or disallow this?

    It’s ridiculous that we, the People, allow government to claim such power.

  • Igimo

    I’m pretty sure facial recognition is a standard feature on the new Google Glass Special Edition: youtu.be/nmqkPpHrhFo

  • https://canadaseopro.ca Todd Herman

    The first developer with the first Google glasses scrambler is going to be a millionaire!

  • Concerned

    So, most people would not be comfortable with this. This is a fourth amendment issue, being equal to searching you for identification without cause or consent. If a cop cannot do it, then a stranger cannot do it either. There is a reason we do not walk around with name tags.

  • http://screamingsigns.net Jimsales74

    I’m not usually one in favor of blocking any technology, but this should be stopped dead in it’s tracks. If you want to take video of people, you shouldn’t be able to do it innocuously. While it’s very cool in one respect, the potential for abuse and invasion of privacy is apparent and staggering. On the Google site, I saw no indication of whether the device is recording, or not. So I have to assume that every wearer is recording my actions? That’s just a crazy invasion.
    The funny thing is, at 54, my peers all see this, but everybody I talk to under 30, seem to have the opinion that we have no rights of personal privacy; they have no problem with being watched by cameras everywhere. They don’t even read the permissions they grant unknown persons when downloading seemingly innocuous Apps, that allow complete access to their devices activities, even when they are not in use. The point is this: As we are watching our electronics, they are now watching us. How long can it be before things like Google Glass are used by Government to make everyone a security camera? What’s to stop them from deploying Telescreen technology?
    If you don’t know what a Telescreen is you need to read Orwell’s 1984, because just like Jules Vernn, Orwell saw the future, he just had the date wrong! 30 years ago, we wondered and scoffed at how society could ever be so stupid to give up their liberty and freedom, but today, we are watching it happen before our very eyes.

    • http://www.femmefatalewhitleybay.co.uk Pete

      I suspect it is because younger people use social networks more and probably started using them before they were old enough to think about things like this. Strangely it isn’t that people aren’t bothered about privacy just they haven’t thought it through and have a blind trust in big brand names like Google, who’s sole purpose is to make money (doesn’t need a big imagination to see where that goes).
      Sadly children now will know no different than to have your entire life monitored

  • http://www.travel-lists.co.uk AlastairMcK

    Sort of agree with Warren Redlich – how dare they assume the power?

    More practically, if the face recognition database was ‘opt-in’, wouldn’t we see the world’s wannabe celebs clamouring, even paying, to get *in*?

    That might be a (unpleasant) compromise.

  • http://salehooforyou.com Christopher

    It’s evolution. As always the world is changing, and we’re going to change with it whether we like it today or not. I’ve always been one to embrace change and get the most out of life, so I’m looking forward to Glass, facial recognition features, and all the good and bad that’s going to come with it.

    • http://www.femmefatalewhitleybay.co.uk Pete

      It will come to the point where EVERYTHING is recorded. We all do naughty things, say something insulting, speed on the motorway, take some less than legal things, maybe tell a fib or two. Imagine a world where you can’t do any of these, I can’t see any ‘cool features’ being worth this nightmare

  • John

    Definitely Not, our privacy should be protected. If you cannot recognize someone through your own perception then their is no business you finding out who they are. What worries me is this statement in the article “Matt Warman at The Telegraph, noting that Google’s terms do not forbid the use of the device for facial recognition.” Once I own a device, I believe I should do with it as I please, with the understanding that the warranty could become void. For example I may buy a lawn mower, but instead of mowing the lawn, i remove the engine and put it on a go cart. Closer to home, A sound card for Sound blaster would have various designed abilities, but only certain abilities are enabled by the version purchased. But there is nothing to stop you enabling those other features if you designed your own software for the hardware. But by doing so you could not get Sound Blaster support should things go wrong, and you would definitely invalidate any warranty. But the act of creating your own software (drivers) cannot ethically be forbidden. So Google glass facial recognition cannot be forbidden, but you would have to be a low life to use it.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      “but you would have to be a low life to use it.”

      A person would have to be a low-life to use a car when there are perfectly good horse and buggy rigs available.

      User “it” for what?

  • Brad

    I think about all the coflicts that will happen for famous people who often walk down a street and enjoy a little privacy.
    Now they will be hassled were ever they go. Google glass will id them.
    There other cases were you were at a party that no you really knew you and after you hope they wouldnt remember you.
    But google glass may tag you

  • Bri

    Look, we hear this sort of thing constantly. This topic has been huge of late on the usual forums with the usual contributors arguing for and against. I see that it’s only a matter of time. We’ve seen it with Panda, Gibbon, and now Glass. The future is here, and we need to embrace it. This won’t affect affiliates in the long run once we all adjust. This is something many of us have known about and been expecting for years.

  • John Owles

    Definately not. Technology for technology’s sake

  • Bob Teal

    I can think of nothing but scarry thoughts about this kind of tech. I could have it at work behind the counter and capture pics of everyones credit cards front and back. I could walk into a bank and catch old people writing out their deposit slips and would they know about them, NO. Do I expect or want people filming me without my permission, NO. I thoght google was a search engine. NO. They scare me LOL

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      None of what you mention has to do with facial recognition and instead all of it can already be done with other devices already on the market.

  • http://www.graciousstore.com Gracious Store

    What is the problem with having Google glass with facial recognition capability?

    • Born on the 4th of July

      And you even have to ask that question?

  • http://wekeepyoucyclingtire.blogspot.com/ Aletea Morris

    Facial recognition will be helpful in many points and I think it should be allowed. I am not saying about others this is my personal point of view.

  • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

    They are going to keep this genie in the bottle how?

    For what it’s worth, this doesn’t really have anything to do with Google Glass that it doesn’t also have to do with any other digital image recording device with programmability onboard, e.g. smartphones, tablets, even laptops.

  • http://www.brightermedia.co.uk Emily

    It’s bad enough that people can film you through google glasses and this instantaneously available to google. Facial recognition is an outrage but because the data will be shared with the government in various anti-terror bills, don’t expect your government to look out for your interests.

  • kileysmith50

    If you think Dennis`s story is unbelievable…, 2 weaks-ago my moms girlfriend basically also made $4343 sitting there eighteen hours a week from home and their co-worker’s mother-in-law`s neighbour did this for three months and made over $4343 part time On their laptop. use the steps on this link. Bow6.com