Google Glass covers a users eye with a small screen that can display emails, text messages, even take pictures with a wink of an eye or record video...Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering at Google. Photo: AFP
Google's Glass headset may be catching the eyes of gadget-lovers, but it has also attracted some pointed inquiries from regulators across the globe who want more information about how the company will handle privacy concerns.
Google attempted to assure US lawmakers overnight that the headset, which mimics many of the functions of a smartphone, does not push the barriers of its current privacy standards. But that was not enough to satisfy some lawmakers' lingering concerns.
Google Glass covers a users eye with a small screen that can display emails, text messages, even take pictures with a wink of an eye or record video. It is only available to developers and an early batch of test users, but is expected to go on sale next year.
Google has been on a charm offensive, attempting to head off concerns about the new technology. It has even brought headsets to Capitol Hill, allowing lawmakers to test its features.
That hasn't been enough for everyone. In May, the House Bipartisan Privacy Caucus asked for more information about how Google Glass will work within the company's privacy standards. Last month, 10 privacy regulators from around the world, including Canada, Australia and a European Commission panel, asked Google for more information on how the company's headset complies with their data protection laws and what data it collects.
"Protecting the security and privacy of our users is one of our top priorities," Molinari said.
But Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, co-chairman of the caucus, said that Google has failed to answer the key question: How can it ensure the privacy of passersby who have not agreed to be photographed or videotaped?
He said that there ought to be a way to alert individuals that they may be on camera and that there should be limits on the types of data Google and other companies can collect from it, as well as limits on how long that data can be stored.
"There do not appear to me to be strong privacy protections for the population at large, or even ownership protection for the user of the Google Glass product," Barton said.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.