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Google: Glass goggles are a 'fairly lousy surveillance device'

UK privacy watchdog warns: It could violate data protection law

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Google's creepy Glass wearable could breach Britain's Data Protection law, the Information Commissioner's office has warned.

The ad giant began flogging the device in Blighty this week for £1,000 a pop.

That move prompted the country's data watchdog to outline the "privacy implications of wearable technology" in a blog post penned by the ICO's senior tech officer Andrew Paterson.

"[L]ike any new technology, wearables must operate in compliance with the law. In the UK, this means making sure that these devices operate in line with the requirements of the UK Data Protection Act," he said.

Google – as the recent European Court of Justice search index ruling showed – has form on evading existing privacy laws in the European Union by claiming that it doesn't process information within the 28-member-state bloc.

But the ICO is politely reminding Google that it has to respect DPA legislation in the UK, as Paterson explained:

If you are using a wearable technology for your own use then you are unlikely to be breaching the Act. This is because the Act includes an exemption for the collection of personal information for domestic purposes.

But if you were to one day decide that you’d like to start using this information for other purposes outside of your personal use, for example to support a local campaign or to start a business, then this exemption would no longer apply.

This is not the case for organisations, whose use of wearable technology to process personal information will almost always be covered [by] the Act. This means that they must process the information collected by these devices in compliance with the legislation.

This includes making sure that people are being informed about how their details are being collected and used, only collecting information that is relevant, adequate and not excessive and ensuring that any information that needs to be collected is kept securely and deleted once it is no longer required.

Paterson added that wearables containing cameras used by Glasshole organisations to capture video or pictures will need to adhere to the regulator's CCTV code of practice, which is currently undergoing a review.

The Register asked Google to comment on this story. It told us: "We designed Glass with privacy in mind. The fact that Glass is worn above the eyes and the screen lights up whenever it’s activated clearly signals it’s in use and makes it a fairly lousy surveillance device.” ®

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