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Google 'disappoints' US congressman over Glass privacy controls

'You have displeased us, Mr. Page' says Barton

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Google's response to privacy concerns expressed by US legislators over its Glass headmounted hardware is "disappointing," according to Representative Joe Barton (R-TX). The Chocolate Factory needs to give consumers more privacy choices, he says.

"There were questions that were not adequately answered and some not answered at all," Barton said. "Google Glass has the potential to change the way people communicate and interact. When new technology like this is introduced that could change societal norms, I believe it is important that people’s rights be protected and vital that privacy is built into the device."

In May, congressional leaders wrote to Google expressing concerns over the privacy implications of Glass, suggesting that there should be controls in place to make sure images and video aren't taken without consent, and that facial recognition technology isn't overbearing.

In its response, Google said that Glass wasn't using facial recognition technology and no such apps are being approved at this time. Taking a photo or video requires a spoken command, the company said, which (as with mobile phones) makes it easy to tell when someone is recording.

All files recorded by Glass are deletable by users, Google said, and the company keeps a tight lock on APIs for apps that might be deemed to cross the privacy line. It is also banning resale of the headsets to ensure that private information isn't transferred, and the headsets can be remotely wiped if lost or stolen.

On Monday, Google also updated the firmware of the device to improve the voice and search controls, and to allow web-page manipulation via finger controls. These additions are in keeping with the privacy stipulations Google laid out in its letter.

Rep. Barton doesn't say what exactly he is unhappy about in Google's response, but it's clear he would like more answers. Then again, given he thinks the Bible offers proof of non-manmade climate change, scientific analysis may be a little beyond him.

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