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Growing Concern: Lawmakers Apprehensive About Google Glass

|May 21|magazine9 min read

The May edition of the Business Review North America is now live! 

By: Robert Spence

On Thursday eight members of Congress formally demanded that Google’s CEO Larry Page address a range of privacy concerns about its new wearable technology device, Google Glass.

In the letter, the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus asks Page to disclose Google’s plan to incorporate privacy protections into Glass by June 14.

“We are curious whether this new technology could infringe on the privacy of the average American,” the letter said. “Because Google Glass has not yet been released and we are uncertain of Google’s plan to incorporate privacy protections into the device, there are still a number of unanswered questions.”

The eight members to sign the letter were: Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas); Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.), Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Rep. Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (D-Ga.), Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Rep. Richard Nugent (R-Fla.), Rep. Bobby Rush (D-lll.) and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.).

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Although Google Glass is not for sale to the public yet,  the inventive eyewear allows users to connect to the Internet, take photographs, record and watch video, send text messages, post to social media sites and read text snippets. The computerized glasses are designed with a translucent screen slightly above the right eye, displaying the weather, Gmail messages, directions, news alerts and other information.

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said he’s not surprised that lawmakers are starting to ask questions about Google Glass, which is still in development.

“I think all of the questions are valid, but these could be questions about smart phones too,” he added. “What’s so hard to determine about this letter, though, is if this is driven by a true desire to protect the public, or if it’s motivated by anti-Google lobbies or politician grand-stand.”

The letter from the Privacy Caucus notes how Google has dealt with privacy issues in the past and then asks how company executives plan to keep Glass from collecting data without the user’s consent.

“Would Google Glass collect any data about the user without the user’s knowledge and consent,” the lawmaker wrote. “If so, why? If not, please explain.”

The letter also asks whether Glass will use facial recognition technology to identify people that the user sees out in public, and whether Google plans any changes or additions to its privacy policy to deal with the Glass technology.

Moorhead expects that Google will quickly answer the questions in an effort to calm members of congress down.