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Google seeks to calm facial recognition furor with app block for Glass

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Google has sought to allay privacy fears by saying it won't be allowing any facial recognition applications to run on its Glass computer spectacles for the moment.

"We've been listening closely to you, and many have expressed both interest and concern around the possibilities of facial recognition in Glass," said the team in a Google+ posting.

"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."

That's unlikely to stop developers, many of whom have already started writing code to use Glass as the perfect aide-mémoire. Lambda Labs and developers at ReKognition have building apps for just this purpose and aren’t likely to stop now.

Both systems seek to solve a human problem that has bedeviled us from the dawn of time: how to recognize people. But some developers want to take things further, such as the InSight app that claims to be able to recognize people by their fashion sense, or lack thereof.

All this is making people nervous. Pretty much since Glass was announced, people have been complaining about its privacy aspects and, with the first headsets now in the hands of developers, the rumblings are getting louder.

Politicians are also getting concerned, with both the US Congress and the Australian parliament asking for clarification from The Chocolate Factory about the capabilities of the new system. No doubt they will be slightly placated by Google's announcement, but concerns aren't just going to disappear.

But facial-recognition apps might not be allowed on the platform by Mountain View. The terms and conditions of Glass say Google can block or remove any third-party application, although in the past Google has favored a more open model in comparison to the locked-down approach Apple is so keen on.

Google declined to comment further on its statement to El Reg, or on other applications that stretch the bounds of decency, such as the recently-announced and very NSFW Glass app TitsandGlass. Google has left the hardware unlockable for the moment, but that can soon change. ®

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