Google seems to always be under the scanner for privacy concerns. Around the time the California-based search giant held its annual I/O developers conference in San Francisco, where it showed off Glass and gave software developers information about writing apps for the device, CEO of Google, Larry Page received a not-so-happy mail from a group of Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus members hovering about the privacy and data concerns caused by Google Glass. The mail also demands a reply by June 14.
The caucus is worried about Google collecting data from users without their consent. Considering that you have to willingly put the glasses on your face, and that anyone can tell you’re wearing them, the worry about consent seems a little overblown. It would seem that any business could require a settings check or could disallow Glass on the premises. One strip club already has. Besides, apparently the battery dies after just three minutes of video recording anyway. Plus, as Google contends, right now Glass is basically taking smartphone functionality and putting it on people’s faces.
That’s really cool. Google Glass promises to be revolutionary. TechRadar summarizes Glass as:
“Essentially, Google Glass is a camera, display, touchpad, battery and microphone built into spectacle frames so that you can perch a display in your field of vision, film, take pictures, search and translate on the go,” TechRadar explains of Glass
Right now, it can record everything you see hands free and upload to the net instantly. Can you imagine what being able to hands-free record and upload cops’ activity will do for civil liberties? You can get directions and background information on points of interest while you sightsee. Imagine all the information on the internet, right in front of you, displayed on the equivalent of a 25-inch high definition screen from eight feet away. Glass lets you text by speaking and will translate your voice, and others’ voices, into other languages as you converse.
And like smartphones and tablets, the best functionality has not yet been developed, and will be offered via apps, such as one reportedly in development that will help you identify friends in a crowd. Being up on the news at Happy Hour will be so much easier with the New York Times app.
It is unfortunate that while Larry Page is literally changing the world, Congress is wasting his time with this silliness.
One question for the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus expressing concerns about citizens privacy is, where were you when CISPA was headed for the Senate? The bill actually protected tech companies from being sued if they broke their Terms of Service agreements regarding customers’ privacy.
Not only did CISPA allow companies to violate their TOS’ with impunity, but while Google will likely share its (cooperatively acquired) data with advertisers, CISPA protected companies if they gave government agencies like the NSA their users’ private data. It should not need stating that the threat of jail is much more problematic for users than that of targeted advertising.
Instead of slowing innovations like Google Glass, it’s time for the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus to protect against the real threats to privacy emanating from the government.
Cathy Reisenwitz is a D.C.-based writer and political commentator. She runs Sex and the State and writes regularly for Thoughts on Liberty. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller and the AFF Free the Future blog. Google image courtesy of Big Stock Photo.