Stoddart raises privacy concerns over Google Glass

Canada’s privacy commission as well as 36 of her provincial and international counterparts on Tuesday issued a joint letter raising privacy concerns about Google Glass, the search engine’s Web-connected spectacles.

“Google Glass raises significant privacy issues and it is disappointing that Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has not engaged more meaningfully with data protection authorities about this technology,” said Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart in statement today. ”We are urging Google to take part in a real dialogue with us about Google Glass.”


Google Glass is a type of wearable computing device that can connect to the Internet, take photos, record movies and allow users to share these images over the Web. Google is still beta testing the product, but Stoddart and the other privacy commissioners are worried about the privacy implications of the wearable technology’s ability to record images.
“Fears of ubiquitous surveillance of individuals by other individuals, whether through such recordings or through other applications currently being developed have been raised,” their letter to Larry Page, CEO of Google Inc., read. “Questions about Google’s collection of such data and what it means in terms of Google’s revamped privacy policy have also started to appear.”
Google confirmed that it received the letter.
“We are thinking very carefully about how we design Glass because new technology always raises new issues,” a spokesperson from Google Canada said. “Our Glass explorer program, which reaches people from all walks of life, will ensure that our users become active participants in shaping the future of this technology.”

In urging Page to engage is a dialogue concerning Glass with data protection authorities, the privacy commissioners posed the following questions:

• How does Google Glass comply with data protection laws?
• What are the privacy safeguards Google and application developers are putting in place?
• What information does Google collect via Glass and what information is shared with third parties, including application developers?
• How does Google intend to use this information?
• While we understand that Google has decided not to include facial recognition in Glass, how does Google intend to address the specific issues around facial recognition in the future?
• Is Google doing anything about the broader social and ethical issues raised by such a product, for example, the surreptitious collection of information about other individuals?
• Has Google undertaken any privacy risk assessment the outcomes of which it would be willing to share?
• Would Google be willing to demonstrate the device to our offices and allow any interested data protection authorities to test it?

They also bemoaned the lack of concrete information about the wearable technology from Google. For instance, they said the information they have about Google Glass, how it operates, how it could be used and how Google might make use of the data collected via Glass largely comes from “Google’s own publicizing” of the device and media reports that contain a “great deal of speculation.”


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They said the only attempt by Google to identify privacy issues that may be connected with the product is through the company’s software developer guidelines, which appear to be tied to advertising within Glass.

Stoddart had previously criticized Google along with other Internet-based firms for lapses in respecting individual’s privacy rights. In 2010, she said that a careless engineer and failure to follow procedures led to the unauthorized interception of private email messages by Google Street View cars driving through Canadian neighbourhoods.

Read the open letter to Larry Page here




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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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