Google is apparently reacting to widespread concerns about one of the most privacy invasive and Orwellian potential applications for its computerized eyeglasses known as Google Glass. Late Friday the Internet giant said it won’t — for now — allow facial recognition software on the device.
Facial recognition software has pretty much been developed to the stage where if such an app were allowed on Glass, a user could scan a crowd, select a face and rapidly discover the person’s identity and all the myriad details about them available on the Internet.
It would be Big Brother at his best. (Or is that worst?) However, from what I can see Google’s announcement is little more than a PR move. Google is not making any long-term promises. Indeed, the Internet giant is very much keeping the door open for including facial recognition software in the future. Google offered this post of explantion on its Google+ Glass page:
When we started the Explorer Program nearly a year ago our goal was simple: we wanted to make people active participants in shaping the future of this technology ahead of a broader consumer launch. We’ve been listening closely to you, and many have expressed both interest and concern around the possibilities of facial recognition in Glass. As Google has said for several years, we won’t add facial recognition features to our products without having strong privacy protections in place. With that in mind, we won’t be approving any facial recognition Glassware at this time.
We’ve learned a lot from you in just a few weeks and we’ll continue to learn more as we update the software and evolve our policies in the weeks and months ahead.
You’ll recall that Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has said that the company’s policy on privacy is to go right up to the “creepy line,” but not to cross it. So, for now facial recognition is beyond the creepy line. The question is: How long will be before the “creepy line” is pushed further down the road so that facial recognition software is OK?
Meanwhile, Computerworld reports that apps developers are scrambling to write software for Glass. Already in the mix are apps from Twitter, Facebook, CNN and Elle. And, it’s not only mainstream apps that are focusing on Glass. Mikandi just announced it has developed a porn App for the computerized eyeglasses.