Congress Raises Privacy Concerns With Google's New Glasses

Google co-founder and staunch Google Glass defender Sergey Brin wears Glass at the company's annual developer conference on June 27, 2012 in San Francisco. (Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images)

Members of Congress are asking whether Google's Internet-connected glasses "could infringe on the privacy of the average American."

Eight members of the House Bipartisan Privacy Caucus sent a letter to Google co-founder Larry Page yesterday, requesting answers to a number of key questions:

  • "What proactive steps is Google taking to protect the privacy of non-users when Google Glass is in use?"
  • Will there be "any product capabilities incorporated into the device to ensure that one's personal information remains private and secure?"
  •  "(I)s it true that this product would be able to use Facial Recognition Technology to unveil personal information about whomever ... the user is viewing?"

The congressional caucus gave Page until June 14 to provide answers to these and other concerns.

Google's director of product management for Glass, Steve Lee, discussed some of the privacy questions during the company's I/O developers conference Thursday.

Lee pointed out that the glass display lights up from both sides when in use, so others nearby can see that it's active. He also noted that users have to speak to Glass or tap it to begin recording --thus,"taking a picture has clear social cues."


Meanwhile, Google announced at the conference that Glass will soon feature seven new apps, including posts from Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, news alerts from CNN, fashion features from Elle, and reminder notes from Evernote.

These join the New York Times and Path as the first apps available on the wearable computer that features what is known as a "head-mounted display."

Covering the conference for the New York Times, Nick Bilton described the disconcerting sensation of being continuously  surrounded, even in the bathroom, by people wearing the glasses, which include en embedded camera that can snap a picture with the wink of an eye.

“At one point as I climbed the stairs and approached the second floor, I saw a group of five people wearing Google Glass, all silently staring off into space,” Bilton wrote. ”I couldn’t tell if they were wirelessly having a conversation through their eyeballs, or just bored by the presence of real humans in front of them.”

Congress Questions Google Glass Privacy