Google nixes face-recognition features in Glass eyewear

Jun 02, 2013 by Glenn Chapman
A woman tries on Google Glass during the Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco on May 17, 2013. Google late Friday put out word that it won't add face-recognition features to Glass, in a bow to privacy fears raised about the camera-enabled Internet-connected eyewear.

Google late Friday put out word that it won't add face-recognition features to Glass, in a bow to privacy fears raised about the camera-enabled Internet-connected eyewear.

"We won't add features to our products without having strong in place," said in an online message aimed at creating applications for Glass.

"With that in mind, we won't be approving any facial recognition at this time," the message continued, revealing how the company intends to refer to software designed for the devices.

In May, a group of US lawmakers asked Google to answer questions on the and possible "misuse of information" of its Glass project.

Eight US lawmakers in the Congressional Privacy Caucus sent a letter saying they are "curious whether this new technology could infringe on the privacy of the average American."

The lawmakers asked Google to provide information about how it would collect and use data from the Internet-linked eyewear, which has been tested by a small group of users and is expected to hit the market later this year.

Some small establishments in the United States have vowed to ban Glass due to worries about how being able to discreetly take pictures or video might be seen as invasive by patrons.

and have already launched applications for Google glasses.

Several major news organizations have also tailored applications for Glass, which has only been made available to developers and a limited selection of "explorers" who paid $1,500 each for the eyewear.

Envisioned uses range from practical tasks such as shopping or delivering local weather reports to sharing real time video streams of riding cable cars or playing augmented reality games in which the world is the board.

"We've been listening closely to you, and many have expressed both interest and concern around the possibilities of facial recognition in Glass," the California-based Internet titan said in message to 'explorers.'

"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.

Glass lets wearers take pictures, record video, send messages, or perform other tasks with touch controls or by speaking "Okay Glass" followed by a command.

Glass connects to the Internet using Wi-Fi hot spots or, more typically, by being wirelessly tethered to mobile phones. Pictures or video can be shared through the Google+ social network.

Google co-founder and chief Larry Page depicted Glass as part of an ongoing effort to get computers "out of the way" so people can focus on lives enriched by what the Internet has to offer.

"We want to make sure we are building experiences that make people really happy," Page said while speaking about Glass at a recent San Francisco gathering of developers.

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TheKnowItAll
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 02, 2013
Of course Google won't make it available right away but I bet the application is already made and waiting to be leaked. Once the blame is put on hackers and the app becomes widespread people will want a reliable source to handle the code and Google will do the job just fine!
dogbert
2.1 / 5 (7) Jun 02, 2013
One of the few really useful applications I can imagine for the device is prompting the user with the names of people. How many of us struggle with remembering names?

The privacy violations of creating video of people surreptitiously [No, I'm not recording now.] won't go away by removing face recognition capability.
Aaron1980
2 / 5 (4) Jun 02, 2013
.... won't for now and not at this time... strong privacy protection? ... infringe on privacy of the average American?

I think that perhaps mankind should revert to a time when there was no privacy of any kind for anyone. Everyone should give up all of their expectations of privacy especially all those in higher offices and professions of more importance to society.

With greater power comes greater responsibility and with greater responsibility having less privacy and more scrutiny ensures those with greater power are acting responsibly.

When everyone lived in tribal settings (13000 years ago) basically all in family-tribal groups under the same roof there was no privacy of any kind and for anything ... there was not such thing as privacy before then.

Privacy is an abstract concept that undermines society and not necessarily nor very often a good thing for people to have.
ValeriaT
2 / 5 (4) Jun 02, 2013
We won't add facial recognition features to our products without having strong privacy protections in place
Yep, "without another collection of private data about users" in Google newspeak. The Google Glass users will become a collectors of Google data about another people and private property at publics or even inside of buildings (a pedestrian version of Google map cars so to say). In addition, every average developer could do it by itself.
ValeriaT
2 / 5 (4) Jun 02, 2013
One such an utilization of Google Glass technology you can find here.
loneislander
3 / 5 (2) Jun 02, 2013
It's enhanced memory and versatility. People are simply going to have to cope with it because there's much more of this to come and the insidious stuff is not telling me who someone is but telling me about them -- that's data mining and no one seems to notice or care. The existence of Facebook makes that point loud and clear and they are hardly the worst of it.

If the entire world does not press for its rights in a rational way this stuff will take them all away in every respect other than a handful of quixotic documents here and there.
Skepticus
1 / 5 (2) Jun 02, 2013
Oh well, I have to reverted to my old fashioned coat button cameras then!
ValeriaT
2 / 5 (4) Jun 02, 2013
People are simply going to have to cope with it because there's much more of this to come
What the Facebook is really good for? We can share photos with Instagram, instant messages with Jabber or ICQ. The added value of revealing your privacy to the Internet is very low in this case. I see, I forgot, that your employers may ask you to reveal your FB profile as a portion of interview or company loyalty check. If you refuse it to do, because you have no FB profile, then you're untruthful asocial person if not terrorist, not worth of further occupation automatically. This is really a great advantage, I can tell ya...;-)
EyeNStein
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 02, 2013
If Google don't do it someone else will sell it as an app. (Even if they have to 'root' the glass device to do it.)
The Kudos of having a high value facility few people have, will make it sell like hot cakes.
(And Google knows it.)
meerling
5 / 5 (1) Jun 02, 2013
Too bad, that was the feature I was most looking forward to. I have a strong level of face blindness. To be able to keep a visual recognition profile with notes (name, where I know him from, etc) on people I know that pops up when I see them would be extraordinarily useful for me.
Other than that, it's essentially just a headsup display for a smart phone.
adam_russell_9615
5 / 5 (1) Jun 03, 2013
Again, this is just silly to ask Google whether they will or wont do something like its going to prevent it from happening. This technology is not patentable in a way that would prevent competitors from making their own version of google glass. So if google doesnt allow facial recognition someone else will. Also, dont you think there will be apps created for this as well? If people want it it will happen.
Sco
5 / 5 (1) Jun 03, 2013
This makes as much sense as removing Phonebook searches from google because you don't want your public street address listing found. Just another example of people wanting to bury their head in the sand, because they don't want to face the fact that the info is already out there. As long as the simpletons can't see it, they will "feel" secure and private.
alfie_null
5 / 5 (1) Jun 03, 2013
It's hard to stop technology. Google elected not to support this probably because of potential negative PR at a time when it is trying to get the public to embrace its new product. But it's inevitable that someone (probably several parties) will perfect face recognition, and face recognition will become endemic.

Rather than trying to stop it, work towards ensuring that the collection and use of that information is public (i.e. company 'x' has to reveal that they collect such information, and they have to tell you when they collect information about you) and under the control of the subject being examined (i.e. you can prevent them from using that information). And have this control be applicable to any sort of collected PII, not just face recognition.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 03, 2013
Those who would use it for relevant purposes (government agencies/police) aren't going to care about whether google wants face recognition on these or not.
And there's really no difference in using face recognition via glasses or the type of face recognition via stationary/handheld cameras in use today.

If google glasses are open for developers to play with then face recognition will be inevitable (heck, I could whip up some at home. The algorithms for that aren't exactly a state secret)

The thing that is going to stop it is the glasses themselves. Can't really see people walking around with them. Their use seems minimal to non-existent outside of specialized fields (work-related overlays - which have been tried before without success BTW, city tours, ...).

Seriously: what would YOU use them for? Angry birds?
infiniteMadness
5 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2013
I dont care, as long as they can read peoples Power Level.

Dont wanna have it go over 9000!
Shootist
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 07, 2013
The privacy violations of creating video of people surreptitiously [No, I'm not recording now.] won't go away by removing face recognition capability.


Yes it will.

Just as the privacy fears of aboriginals went away from having their photos taken.

Any one, any where should have the right to make a video/audio recording of their surroundings, of what they can see. What they can see is, after all, uniquely theirs. If you don't like it, go home. Or wear a burka.
dogbert
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 07, 2013
Shootist
Any one, any where should have the right to make a video/audio recording of their surroundings, of what they can see.


Most people, and I do recognize you except yourself, do expect privacy in various situations -- shower rooms, restrooms, etc.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 07, 2013
Any one, any where should have the right to make a video/audio recording of their surroundings, of what they can see.

What you can see and what you can record are two different things.

Example: I can't put a camera in the stairwell of my house even though I may want to do so (e.g. because I want to see who's knocking on my door before opening it).
Reasone being: The camera can record all passers-by and that impacts on the privacy rights of the people living above me (because I now have a complete record of their comings and goings and who visits them and when)

Recording people without their permission is iffy. People have right to their likeness. And not all spaces you can walk into with a camera are automatically 'public spaces'.