Congress doesn't like Google's response to Glass privacy concerns

Back in May, Congress drafted a letter to Google outlining a list of privacy concerns about the wearable computing device known as Glass. The stated deadline for a reply to those concerns was June 14, but in a letter now revealed by one of the politicians behind the letter, Google responded much earlier.

Dated June 7, and written by Susan Molinari, Google's vice president of public policy and government relations, the lengthy letter makes a point of noting that congressman Joe Barton, one of the original letter writers, tried on Glass and sampled its functions. The letter then goes on to address the questions posed by the congressional group, however, the answers provided aren't necessarily always straightforward.

For example, in response to the group's question:

"What proactive steps is Google taking to protect the privacy of non-users when Google Glass is in use?"

Google responded by writing, in part:

"We have also built some social signals into the way Glass is used. These signals help people understand what users are doing, and give Glass users means for employing etiquette in any given situation."

Nevertheless, as we've already seen, these social signals can and have already been defeated in a way that will allow Glass users to take photos of others without their knowledge.

Much of Google's response letter addresses the questions posed in similar fashion, highlighting the device's positive aspects and existing controls as sufficient. Apparently, this didn't sit well with the bi-partisan congressional group, because Barton has now released a statement in response to Google. Barton wrote:

"I am disappointed in the responses we received from Google. There were questions that were not adequately answered and some not answered at all. 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..."

So while both parties appear to be polite in their disagreements, it's clear that Glass is facing a potential backlash from political forces before it even hits the open market. When Glass does arrive for the masses, presumably in 2014, we'll likely see a restart of this gentle tussle over disruptive technology.

Interestingly, it appears that not all Washington insiders are on the same page about Glass. Just last week, former congressman Newt Gingrich was photographed picking up his own Glass device in New York, and looking pretty happy about it (see photo above).

Via Joe Barton

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