Feeds

Congress asks Google to explain Glass privacy policies

Pesky laws and governments interfering yet again

Top three mobile application threats

The pilot phase of Google Glass is barely off the ground, but the Chocolate Factory's high-tech specs have already drawn the scrutiny of the US Congress over concerns that they could infringe individual privacy.

In a letter addressed to Google CEO Larry Page, eight members of the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus called upon the online giant to explain just how it plans to protect citizens' privacy when Glass goes mainstream.

"Because Google Glass has not yet been released and we are uncertain of Google's plans to incorporate privacy protection into the device, there are still a number of unanswered questions that we share," the letter states.

It goes on to note – rather incisively, we might add – that Google has a bit of a bad habit of collecting data without permission, as in the recent case where its Street View cars were found to have been snooping data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks.

Among the questions the representatives would like answered are what kinds of data Google Glass will collect, whether any privacy safeguards will be built into the devices, what privacy policies will be in place, and whether individuals will be able to opt out of data collection and features like face recognition.

"Please provide examples of when Google would reject requests on Google Glass that would risk the privacy of others," the letter requests. "Would Google place limits on the technology and what type of information it can reveal about another person?"

The letter further asks whether Google will require Glass developers to build privacy controls into their apps, and whether data stored on the devices will be protected by some sort of user authentication scheme.

Fair questions all, we think – and questions that Google is unlikely to have clear answers for at this early stage. The current Explorer Edition Glass headsets are intended for developers only, and a future, commercially available version could look very different.

Even at this year's Google I/O conference, currently underway in San Francisco, although buzz about Glass is high, most of the talk about it has had a decidedly forward-looking air. When asked during a keynote Q&A session what opportunities the devices offer developers, Page replied only, "Our main goal is to get happy users using Glass."

He'll have to do a little better than that, however, when he replies to the Privacy Caucus's letter. The eight signatories of the letter are evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, suggesting that interest in the matter within Congress may be broad.

That's bound to be a bummer for Page, who lamented during his keynote that "old institutions, like the law" weren't keeping up with the pace of tech, and that he wished the world was more like the anarchic Burning Man festival.

The letter requests a formal reply from Page no later than June 14, 2013. Google has declined to comment. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.