Glass privacy concern dismissal doesn’t pacify US Congress committee

Jul 2, 2013
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Glass privacy concern dismissal doesn’t pacify US Congress committee

Google has denied the need to modify its privacy policy to accommodate Glass, leaving a US government privacy panel frustrated and feeling the search giant left questions "not adequately answered" in its response. The Google letter, a four page document sent to the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus on June 7, came after the committee demanded clarification on specific privacy concerns back in May, including whether the search giant intended to make changes to its existing policies in recognition of the new usage paradigms Glass invoked. The committee didn't get the response it was hoping for, though Google did reveal that it has some other changes in store that weren't seen in yesterday's XE7 Glass update.

For instance, the absence of any native lock system for Glass - meaning that, should the wearable be stolen, its data could easily be accessed by anybody - gets specifically mentioned by Molinari as an area Google is looking at. "We are experimenting with "lock" solutions to determine what would work best for this type of device" she writes.

The omission has already prompted at least one third-party locking system for Glass. Dubbed "Bulletproof" the system uses a combination of swipes and taps on the wearable's touchpad to unlock, with motion-tracking used to automatically secure it again should it be taken off or forcibly removed.

However, Caucus hopes that Google would evolve its user policies to recognize Glass as a new age in electronics and data collection were dashed. "Use of Google Glass will be governed by the terms of the Google Privacy Policy" VP of Public Policy and Government Relations Susan Molinari wrote to the Caucus, however, "and no changes to the Google Privacy Policy are planned for Glass."

Meanwhile, Molinari also commented on product lifecycle concerns, with the Caucus questioning how data is protected should Glass be sold on. The relevant tools are still, in part, a work-in-progress she suggests, given that the initial Explorer Edition models are not allowed to be sold or transferred; however, there will be broader controls over data, including from the MyGlass app and the web-based interface.

"While we ask participants in our Explorer program not to sell or transfer their Glass, users who someday transfer Glass to others will have options for removing their content from the device. Glass displays items like photos, videos, and text messages in a timeline, along with a "delete" option to remove them from that timeline. The "delete" function is one way to remove content from Glass. Also, the MyGlass site and app ... will give users the ability to disable specific items (including Gmail, Google+, and Now) from Glass and to perform an factory reset, which will wipe all of their data from the device. users who lose their Glass can likewise make use of these MyGlass site and app features" Susan Molinari, VP of Public Policy and Government Relations, Google

Nonetheless, despite the letter and Molinari's explanations, Congressman Joe Barton who leads the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus isn't satisfied. "I am disappointed in the responses we received from Google" he said of the reply. "There were questions that were not adequately answered and some not answered at all."

According to Barton, Google is underestimating the potential for changing attitudes and approaches to privacy that Glass will allow:

"Google Glass has the potential to change the way people communicate and interact. When new technology like this is introduced that could change societal norms, I believe it is important that people’s rights be protected and vital that privacy is built into the device. I look forward to continuing a working relationship with Google as Google Glass develops" Rep. Joe Baton (R-TX)

While Google's headset has been singled out by many, wearables as a whole present new and potentially dangerous security issues as they change the way technology is integrated into our daily lives. Speaking to SlashGear last month, Lookout security researcher Marc Rogers suggested that devices like Glass could be used as wireless reconnaissance tools, gathering up environmental data both visible - such as the location of security cameras - and invisible - like wireless networks - that could be used in unforeseen ways.

"You have to think about anything you start using for a new purpose: what’s the threat model around that? How would you change the economy of it for a bad guy?" Rogers told us. "Is it now more interesting; is it collecting interesting data? Or, conversely, is it more vulnerable? Are you exposing something that was never exposed before?"

VIA Marketing Land


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