back to article Google seeks to calm facial recognition furor with app block for Glass

Google has sought to allay privacy fears by saying it won't be allowing any facial recognition applications to run on its Glass computer spectacles for the moment. "We've been listening closely to you, and many have expressed both interest and concern around the possibilities of facial recognition in Glass," said the team in a …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aspects of privacy

    The tech is nothing new, it's the acceptance of it that worries people.

    Yes you can take videos with a mobile phone or a camera placed into glasses. What Google glasses does is provide an acceptable reason to be doing so in public all the time.

    Strong privacy isn't something google is good at, from trying to use MAC addresses to provide location and getting caught up in monitoring wifi to Streetview and peering over peoples fences to running and recording all searches, web history, emails and mouse pointer movements to provide advertisements.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aspects of privacy

      Correct, and if facial recognition is not allowed who is to say you can't do that with the recording at a later date anyway. Statistically Google glass wearers may find themselves at more risk of being beaten up than the average pedestrian.

      1. Captain Hogwash

        Re: Google glass wearers may find themselves at more risk of being beaten up

        Until Google Glass becomes as accepted as smartphones. Once that happens it will be seen as suspicious to be not wearing a set and the risk will be to the refuseniks. Be seeing you.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Google glass acceptance

          Until Google Glass becomes as accepted as smartphones

          Hogwash, insofar that it is fairly detectable that someone is recording with a smartphone whereas you really have no idea with GG (the recording LED is only a hardware hack of a black marker away from being useless). This is really problem no.1 with GGs: the fact that you may not even KNOW that you are recording or are being recorded. Google could very well combine the WiFi acquisition it already runs over Android with facial recognition it does *itself* via GGs.

          Google is very good at twisting words, so you should always examine what it *actually* says. In this case I note with interest that Google's statement skilfully avoids addressing what they could do THEMSELVES - their statement only refers to 3rd party apps. Based on past performance, this tells me all I want to know, and it's not good.

          1. Captain Hogwash

            Re: Google glass acceptance

            Life is lazy. Most people seem to live by the maxim "Give me convenience or give me death." That is how acceptance will happen. In spite of how your reply reads to me, I don't think it's a good thing.

  2. Darling Petunia

    Where do the critics live? Every modern city is flush with CCDTV, ATMs, and an unlimited number of cellphones clicking images. Google's "Glass" is an interesting toy that seems to distill the fears of the fools. Face it. You are being observed if you are in public. If you are huddled in your abode, you are still being monitored by the choices you make when you change the channel, click a website, or flush a toilet.

    1. Matt2012
      Big Brother

      There's a big difference between possibility and ubiquity. Most CCTV is never watched or exists in a silo then written over. Soon every person working for the state, the private sector, sitting on the bus will be able to record the people around them upload them in real time online where they can be automatically identified and their location mapped and shared. This technological change in society may be inevitable but to not see how far reaching the ramifications of joining all the dots is - is to be sticking your head in the sand.

      1. Jordan Davenport

        The problem is that we've been there ever since the advent of the camera phone. You can record in real time with just about any phone now, simply pretending to be talking/listening on the phone. The privacy problem is indeed real, but we've been facing it since long before Google Glass arrived. All Glass has done is just sound the trumpet, but people still aren't seeing the elephant in the room.

      2. McWibble

        > record the people around them upload them in real time online

        What sort of data plans and connections do you people have?!? I sometimes struggle just to load webpages at a decent speed and get stuck with a 500MB 'fair use' limit per month. I certainly can't see hundreds/thousands/millions of people all being able to simultaneously upload every single second of every single day in real time.

      3. David Cantrell

        Just like how most CCTV is never watched and is ephemeral, most of the output from personal facial recognition systems will likewise never be stored or uploaded, if only because mobile bandwidth is expensive and we have better things to do with it. And also because nigh-on all of it is supremely boring.

        If you're worried about the state and corporations misusing data from these things, then they can and do do that anyway with existing technology: ANPR, travel ticket purchases, what books you buy, who your friends are on Facebook, your online calendar, .... The privacy horse has well and truly bolted. It was always going to bolt too, and banning one particular technology will not help in the slightest. If you want to do something useful, campaign for meaningful laws preventing abuse of data instead.

  3. Thorne
    Black Helicopters

    How long...

    Until all the police wear headsets with facial recognition?

    Just like now the act of driving past a police car automatically brings up your details and rego and insurance status.

    Police will be able to walk past people and know if there is a warrant or drug use history or out on parole or wagging school etc.

    Of course this will all happen under the guise of protecting police officers from false claims...

    1. LarsG

      Re: How long...

      They'll just claim they need it for anti terrorism measures, though how they will be able to see through a burka confuses me?

      1. Thorne

        Re: How long...

        Won't need to. Just a burka will trigger an alert...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How long...

      Until all the police wear headsets with facial recognition?

      Actually, you have a point - in reverse. I think that a citizen is actually entitled to get full text and details of every officer they come across, so this sort of facial app could have some use. After all, they are in public service and are paid by your tax money. I wouldn't want name and address (that would be incorrect), but a badge, rank and station would be a good bit of data to know, and should actually be supplied as a matter of course.

      In the interest of further balance it should also be observed that recording those who go beyond the call of duty is IMHO worth it too.

  4. Tomato42

    Wait, what?

    Wasn't it THE reason to get the Glass?

    sure, making it use "the cloud" is a quick way to a dystopia world but surely Google would be able to add a requirement for such apps: want face recognition - no real-time 'net access

  5. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    I didn't see much indication of facial recognition with Tits&Glass, where's the problem?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facial recognition isn't the problem. Running your entire life through Google servers is.

  7. Ian Michael Gumby


    Sorry but how do you opt-out of any facial recognition software when you're not the one wearing the glasses?

    Clearly the Feds need to get ahead of the curve on this.

    Oh wait. Google already has an army of lobbyists working on their behalf already and are padding the politician's pockets as we speak.

    1. turnip handler

      Re: WTF?

      How do you opt out of having a picture of your face posted to Flicker? Your face can't be recognised without reference data to match you against and this has to come from somewhere. Either someone else uploads pictures of you (in to a reference database) or you upload your own image (linkedin / facebook / Google+). The privacy controls should be everywhere you upload data to enable you to lock down reference access.

      As others have said Glass is bringing these issues to the fore but examples of privacy issues with data already captured exist.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby

        Re: WTF?

        How many people are running facial recognition software on photos on flickr?

        That's the point. You nor I have the computing power and library of images to go through to do the photo recognition.

        Another commentard pointed out that one could take the video and then run facial recognition. Really? Your point that you need to have reference photos would make that impossible. However... The government, Google and Facebook have those photos...

        And also to your point... yes privacy issues have been around. Only its taken this to make people aware of how much of their privacy has been eroded.

    2. Thorne

      Re: WTF?

      "Sorry but how do you opt-out of any facial recognition software when you're not the one wearing the glasses?"

      Paper bag....

  8. DJ 2


    How can I find John Conner if this gets blocked?

  9. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Commentards are wearing tin-foil hats this year.

    Clearly most of the folks writing here don't use Google face tagging or they would realize they are talking a lot of hot air. But regardless of that, what's the problem with facial recognition? The human brain does it all the time, hell - my dog even does it and he's about as smart as a box of rocks.

    The point here is not "Oh my God! It can be done!" but simply that Google is offering the capability at a price point that anyone will be able to afford - your governments are already doing this, and have been for a while now - but average Joe in the street couldn't afford it. Now Joe can and what's he doing? Bitching about it and wanting restrictions placed on it - idiots.

    As for Google not allowing the apps on Glass, LOL - how long is that going to last? There's nothing much in Glass that you couldn't knock up at home now that it's been shown to be possible. Sure, the home kit might me a little larger but give it 5 years and this sort of technology will be ubiquitous.

    The world is changing - you need to adapt.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The world is changing - you need to adapt.

      I agree that the argument will be lost as these (& similar) devices become more ubiquitous. Privacy will be only for the rich or the technically-adept paranoiac.

      However, I do think that if we can slow the process down, by raising concerns, engaging those who might use these devices, and campaigning for better laws and regulations, there is a good chance that we will manage to end up with a society better adapted to the ordinary people living in it.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        @ "end up with a society better adapted to the ordinary people"

        I felt that way once but realistically, no matter what I wanted the world to be, it hasn't worked out that way and now, in my dotage, I realize that they were just youthful dreams. Good dreams and so I will upvote your post, even though I think that you are wrong.

        The only way to beat change is to embrace it and make it your own.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ "end up with a society better adapted to the ordinary people"

          The only way to beat change is to embrace it and make it your own

          Hmm. For evil to win, it just requires good men to do nothing. QED. The organisation behind this is already under investigation in almost any place excepts it's nation of origin for privacy violations. Not exactly the perfect track record to just let them continue IMHO.

    2. David Cantrell

      Re: Commentards are wearing tin-foil hats this year.

      Five years? Nah, two. It took Google a year and a half to release their iPhone clone. It'll not take much more than that for someone else to copy Glass once Google have demonstrated that there's a market.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you see someone wearing glass you know that they are special. They need assistance!

    Consider it a disablity tool. Or they are just a tool!

  11. Paul Webb

    Time for the I'mGlass (tm) Burka of Invisibility

    Where are the wearable computing countermeasures?

    Or perhaps just update the etiquette about not punching people wearing glasses.

    1. John 137

      Re: Time for the I'mGlass (tm) Burka of Invisibility

      Did a Ctrl-F to find the inevitable twat talking about "punching Glass wearers in the face hurr hurr" and was not disappointed.

  12. Oninoshiko

    Don't these practically come jailbroken?

    so, what's stopping side loading facial recognition?

  13. Trustme

    Reality check

    "Politicians are also getting concerned"

    Are these the same politicians that are busy installing cctv everywhere that definitely does have facial recognition attached where it can? This boat has already sailed. Unless you live in the country you're being filmed constantly by people you can't see but you're going to get stressed about being caught on some guy that you can see's camera? Don't get all stressed about being filmed by casual passers by when you passively accept the ubiquitous nature of cctv.

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