In a humor-laced article in today's New York Times, a reporter describes the odd feeling of walking into the bathroom at Google's I/O conference and seeing a crowd of guys wearing Google Glass while using the urinals. But despite the tongue-in-cheek nature of that account, some are taking the privacy concerns surrounding the wearable computing device seriously. Most notably, members of Congress, who just sent Google a rather public missive on the topic.
In a letter addressed to Google CEO Larry Page, eight members of Congress posed a number of serious questions on the topic of privacy. Outlining the general reasoning behind the letter, the group wrote, "As members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, we are curious whether this new technology could infringe on the privacy of the average American."
But rather than simply leave the question up to generalities, the group actually delves into specifics. Some of the questions asked include:
- What proactive steps is Google taking to protect the privacy of non-users when Google Glass is in use?
- When using Google Glass, is it true that this product would be able to use Facial Recognition Technology to unveil personal information about whomever and even some inanimate objects that the user is viewing?
- Would Google Glass collect any data about the user without the user’s knowledge and consent?
As you can see, the questions posed are some of the very same questions some members of the tech community have been asking, particularly in the wake of new apps being developed that can snap photos with just a wink using the device. Congress has requested that Page answer the questions by June 14. You can read the entire letter here.
But for what it's worth, Charles Mendis, a Google Glass engineer, told The Verge they designed Glass with clear "visual cues" to protect privacy. Basically, if a person is recording you in a place such as the restroom, you'd have to be pretty oblivious to not notice someone is looking at your direction with so much focus.) Mendis said Google will enforce a policy that requires the display be turned on when the device is active and running an app.