Google Bans Facial Recognition Apps on Google Glass

With privacy concerns mounting over Google Glass, the company has amended its policy and banned any facial recognition app (or Glassware) on the augmented reality Google Glass, until it comes up with appropriate protection measures to prevent abuse of the service.

Google glass anticipated 2013
Google Glass the next big thing?

Google posted a notice to its Google Glass Channel on Google+, acknowledging the potential of facial recognition on Google Glass, and made it clear that it would not be approving any facial recognition Glassware for now.

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.

Google has also amended its developer policies, specifically the “What You Can’t Do” section for Google Glass, adding the following:

Don’t use the camera or microphone to cross-reference and immediately present personal information identifying anyone other than the user, including use cases such as facial recognition and voice print. Applications that do this will not be approved at this time.

Google Glass has been at the center of debate regarding privacy issues for quite some time now. When you’re walking around with a camera on your head, which is always connected to the internet, you could use it to identify almost anyone out in the public, and get more details about them – by cross-referencing their faces with social networks. You could have access to the person’s photos, address, and almost anything else that is available on their profiles.

This potential has come under fire from Congress itself. Congressman Joe Barton sent a letter to Google demanding an explanation of the privacy protection measures in Google Glass. Google has responded to these concerns by mentioning that Google Glass display won’t turn off while capturing an image or video – thus there will always be a way to know if you are being recorded.

However, like Android phones, Google Glass too is open by nature. It can be rooted and modified by developers in any way they’d like. So all apps don’t necessarily have to be approved by Google. This basically means that if someone really wanted to spy on you, it won’t be impossible to pull off. On the contrary, it could be fairly easy.