Google Glass Model

Google Glass

Google Glass eyewear (beta) is on sale in the U.S. this month, priced at $1,500 — get yours while current stocks last! It’s the latest wrinkle in the “no personal privacy” world we live in.

A stamp-sized electronic screen mounted on the side of a pair of eyeglass frames, Google Glass can record video, access email, provide turn-by-turn driving directions and retrieve information from the web by connecting wirelessly to a user’s phone.

Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? But Google has been investing in facial recognition technology and its potential for using image search to winnow identifiable individuals from all of the photos posted online. Google would like to connect you with your personal history and create a social media “profile” you may not know about or want to have — and that others can access without permission.

Google Glass headsets have a camera built in, and third-party developers like NameTag have begun creating apps that would allow wearers of Google Glass headsets to take a photo of someone they meet and use it to check that person’s online profile. NameTag’s website reads (complete with cute little smiley emoticon),

Why leave meeting amazing people up to chance? Don’t miss out on the opportunity to connect with others who share your passions!

Connect your info and interests with the world by simply sharing your most unique feature – your face. Nametag links your face to a single, unified online presence that includes your contact information, social media profiles, interests, hobbies and passions and anything else you want to share with the world.

Using the NameTag smartphone or Google Glass app, simply snap a pic of someone you want to connect with and see their entire public online presence in one place.
Don’t be a Stranger :)

Minnesota Senator Al Franken, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, recently published an open letter to FacialNetwork.com, the maker of NameTag, raising concerns about the inability of persons being identified by facial recognition to know about or consent to this identification.

According to promotional materials, NameTag lets strangers get a broad range of personal information-including a person’s name, photos, and dating website profiles-simply by looking at that person’s face with the Glass camera. This is apparently done without that person’s knowledge or consent, which crosses a bright line for privacy and personal safety. I urge you to delay this app’s launch until best practices for facial recognition technology are established-a process that I’ve long called for and which begins tomorrow [February 6, 2014] in Washington. At a minimum, NameTag should only identify people who have given the app permission to do so.

I am especially concerned that NameTag plans to scan dating websites such as Match and OkCupid. It is easy to envision how this technology could facilitate harassment, stalking, and other threats to personal security. Your company has an obligation to protect users from these threats.

Last summer Google banned apps that implement facial recognition on its Google Glass product, but developers say that it is possible to load apps, called Glassware, onto the wearable system without needing Google’s permission, using “jailbroken” Glass devices. So it is only a matter of time, if it hasn’t already happened.

Are we ready for this new world?

Photo by Tim Reckmann under Creative Commons license