Sorry, no facial recognition in Google Glass

By Michael Mayday , Jun 01, 2013 08:17 PM EDT

Google announced in a blog post, Friday, it won't allow any applications with facial recognition capabilities to be incorporated into their Google Glass product until there are appropriate privacy protections in place.

Google's post is suggestive of the Internet search giant's privacy policies for the Google Glass, set to be released to the general public sometime next year. Those policies include a specific ban on facial recognition software, until they're able to comfortably guarantee the public that their privacy is protected.

The announcement comes on the heels of a Congressional letter inquiring about the privacy protections Google has put in place for Google Glass.

The concern is that while wearing Google Glass, users will be able to use facial recognition to pull up information about the people around them - information that, in all likelihood, some people don't want others to have immediate and secretive access to.

But such technology may have its uses in the business world.

"You've got a lot of business contacts. You've met, say, a thousand people this year. You could imagine [an app] having reference to your current contact book,"Stephen Balaban, founder of Lambda Labs, a company that specializes in facial recognition services, said to the CBC. "And when you see someone again, it'll whisper in your ear their name, their company.... It kind of does it for you automatically."

To pacify concerned members of the public, Google's notice states that they "won't add facial recognition features to [their] products without having strong privacy protections in place." Placing a flat-out ban on facial recognition technology until they have strong corresponding protections in place.

The question, then, is how will Google prevent third-parties, like Lambda Labs, from, distributing and installing such software on Glass. While blocking applications on the Google Play Store may be an option, dedicated content providers can find other mediums to distribute their wares.

If that's the case, then Google may have a hard time establishing standards for the new technology, possibly letting third parties set the standard when it comes to facial recognition consent. Lambda Labs, for example, is planning to offer an ‘opt-out' feature that would allow people to request that their faces not be linked to any online information.

But such features may not be an option if another company decides to create facial recognition software. Google has erred on the side of caution by their current ban of the technology, and while it may give lawmakers, and Google itself, time to catch up with the rapidly evolving industry, such restraint may be too little too late.

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