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US Congress demands Google explain Glass privacy policies

Larry Page is asked if users can opt out of data collection
Fri May 17 2013, 11:20

THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS has sent a letter to Google outlining privacy concerns about its augmented reality eyewear Google Glass.

Signed by eight members of Congress, the letter requests answers from the Silicon Valley based company, such as how it will prevent Glass from collecting sensitive private data without user consent. Congress gave Google until 14 June to respond.

girl lookign silly wearing Google Glass

"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," said the letter addressed Google CEO Larry Page.

Composed by Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus led by Representative Joe Barton (R-Texas), the letter continued, "Because Google Glass has not yet been released and we are uncertain of Google's plans to incorporate privacy protections into the device, there are still a number of unanswered questions that we share."

The document goes on to ask eight questions, some stranger than others, including whether the space-age spectacles will be able to use Facial Recognition Technology to discover personal information about not only people, but even "inanimate objects" that the user is viewing.

"Would a user be able to request such information? Can a non-user or human subject opt out of this collection of personal data? If so, how? If not, why not?," the letter probed.

"Will Google Glass have the capacity to store any data on the device itself? If so, will Google Glass implement some sort of user authentication system to safeguard stored data? If not, why not? If so, please explain," the letter added.

Other congressmen signing the letter included Representatives John Barrow (D-GA), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Henry C. Johnson Jr. (D-GA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Richard Nugent (R-FL), Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA).

Google refused to comment on the letter, with a representative saying that it wasn't yet clear if it had even been opened or read by Page yet.

Despite not having been released yet since it is still in the developer prototype phase, Google Glass has already gained a lot of attention. Though the letter from the US Congress could be somewhat be worrying for the future of Google's spectacles, it's also another sign of its mounting notoriety.

The device has already been banned in some places ahead of its release as its surveillance capabilities have lead to concerns. Last month, it was reported that Las Vegas casinos and strip clubs won't allow the device to be worn on their premises because of its photographic capabilities.

Earlier, a bar in Seattle claimed to be the first business in the city to ban Google Glass in advance via a post on Facebook, which said "ass kickings will be encouraged for violators".

Google took the wraps off its Glass specifications and started shipping its first developer prototypes of the augmented reality eyewear last month. The firm posted the Google Glass specifications on its support website.

Compatible with any Bluetooth enabled phone, Google Glass features include GPS and SMS messaging, which are limited to handsets running Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich. µ


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