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Six nations ask Google for answers on Glass privacy

Canada, Oz, NZ, Mexico, Switzerland and Israel send 'Dear Larry' letter

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36 Privacy Commissioners from around the world have written to Google to ask, in the polite-but-firm language of international diplomacy, for some details about Google Glass.

The letter, signed by Privacy Commissioners or their equivalents from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Switzerland and Israel, plus several Canadian provinces.

The authors' beef is simple: it looks like Glass could invade privacy in dozens of ways, but Google has told the world almost nothing about how the device works. That observation produced the following list of questions the Commissioners want answered:

  • What are the privacy safeguards Google and application developers are putting in place?
  • What information does Google collect via Glass and what information is shared with third parties, including application developers?
  • How does Google intend to use this information?
  • While we understand that Google has decided not to include facial recognition in Glass, how does Google intend to address the specific issues around facial recognition in the future?
  • Is Google doing anything about the broader social and ethical issues raised by such a product, for example, the surreptitious collection of information about other individuals?
  • Has Google undertaken any privacy risk assessment the outcomes of which it would be willing to share?
  • Would Google be willing to demonstrate the device to our offices and allow any interested data protection authorities to test it?

At the time of writing Google has not responded to the letter, which is addressed to Larry Page himself.

“We would be very interested in hearing about the privacy implications of this new product and the steps you are taking to ensure that, as you move forward with Google Glass, individuals’ privacy rights are respected around the world,” the authors say. “We look forward to responses to these questions and to a meeting to discuss the privacy issues raised by Google Glass.”

As do we all. ®

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