Now Some Members Of Congress Are Scared Of Google Glass

IT Management

Share this Post

Google Glass has sparked a conversation on the value of privacy ever since it was revealed last year. Those arguing for or against have become much louder in recent months, however, since the hardware is now in the hands of a select few developers. As expected, some members of Congress are now starting to chime in.

The Hill reports that the bi-partisan congressional Privacy Caucus sent an open letter to Google CEO Larry Page asking for clarification on Glass and the myriad of privacy issues it presents. The letter contains many of the same talking points that groups like Stop the Cyborgs have brought up in the past, but it seems to at least be giving Google the benefit of the doubt in this case.

Here's some of the more interesting questions that many of us, including myself, would want answered:

"What proactive steps is Google taking to protect the privacy of non-users when Google Glass is in us? Are product lifecycle guidelines and frameworks, such as Privacy by Design, being implemented in connection with its product design and commercialization? For example, if a Google Glass customer/user decides to resell or to dispose of their Google Glas product, would there be any product capabilities incorporated into the device to ensure that one's personal information remains private and secure?"

"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?"

"Given Google Glass' sensory and processing capabilities, has Google considered making any additions or refinements to its privacy policy? If so, please explain. If not, why not?"

There are a total of eight questions, but the above three are by far the most important. The last question is especially interesting as Google has run into complaints and threats of regulation when it changes its privacy policy. Even if Google were to change its privacy policy to reflect the the privacy implications of Glass, it's a given that somebody would find something to complain about.

In addition to questions about its privacy policy, the Privacy Caucus drags the 3-year-old street view Wi-Fi data collection scandal into the spotlight yet again. They want to know if Google will be doing anything to prevent Glass from unintentionally collecting data. It's somewhat of a moot point because Glass and the street view cars are very different. Even if Google Glass could store data from unprotected Wi-Fi sources, the paltry 16GB of onboard storage ensures that it wouldn't be able to collect very much.

As for Google's response to all of this, a spokesperson for the company told The Hill that Google is "thinking very carefully how [it] design[s] Glass because new technology always raises new issues."

That's about all we can ask for at the moment. It will be interesting, however, to see if Page actually responds to the letter. During his closing remarks at Google I/O on Wednesday, he raised concerns that the law wasn't keeping pace with technology. Would he argue that privacy laws aren't keeping up with what Google is trying to achieve with Glass?