Update: Countries question Google on Glass privacy

In open letter, officials say they want to meet with CEO Larry Page, test Glass

Privacy officials from six countries and the European Commission are pushing Google to answer questions about privacy issues surrounding its digital eyewear called Glass.

The officials, from countries including Australia, Canada, Mexico and New Zealand, along with a representative from the EC's privacy-focused Article 29 Working Party, are asking Google CEO Larry Page to allow them to test Glass, which is still in beta testing.

google glass
Google's wearable computer Glass has raised privacy concerns.

The officials reached out to Page in an open letter.

"As you have undoubtedly noticed, Google Glass has been the subject of many articles that have raised concerns about the obvious, and perhaps less obvious, privacy implications of a device that can be worn by an individual and used to film and record audio of other people," the letter reads. "Fears of ubiquitous surveillance of individuals by other individuals, whether through such recordings or through other applications currently being developed, have been raised."

The letter also points out officials' concerns about Google's collecting data on users and what it means in terms of Google's revamped privacy policy.

"We understand that other companies are developing similar products, but you are a leader in this area, the first to test your product 'in the wild' so to speak, and the first to confront the ethical issues that such a product entails," the letter adds. "To date, however, most of the data protection authorities listed below have not been approached by your company to discuss any of these issues in detail."

The letter goes on to ask Page a series of questions, including how Glass will comply with data protection laws, what information Google will collect through Glass and what information is shared with third parties, including developers.

"It's very early days, and we are thinking very carefully about how we design Glass because new technology always raises new issues," wrote a Google spokesman in an email to Computerworld. "Our Glass Explorer program, which reaches people from all walks of life, will ensure that our users become active participants in shaping the future of this technology -- and we're excited to hear the feedback."

This week's inquiry into Glass comes on the heels of a similar letter from the U.S. Congress.

Last month, eight members of Congress wrote an open letter to Page that outlined their privacy concerns about Glass. In the letter (.pdf format), the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus asked Page to disclose Google's plan to incorporate privacy protections into Glass.

Privacy concerns have swirled around Glass ever since the project was first unveiled last year. Glass hasn't officially shipped, although several thousand prototypes are in the hands of developers and early adopters.

Earlier this month, Google said it had scrubbed plans to use facial recognition software in Glass until adequate privacy protections can be put in place.

This article, Countries question Google on Glass privacy, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

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