Facial Recognition Software Banned On Google Glass

Image via Flickr/ Ars Electronica

Google’s latest technology, Google Glass, has been thrilling and scaring a lot of people. Google Glass is essentially a wearable computer with a head-mounted display that shows whatever information you need at the time. Since the display is so small, all control happens through voice commands. For example, while you would have to press several buttons to take a picture on a phone, Google Glass snaps it by simply saying, “Glass, take a picture.”  The technology behind the device is astounding, but some are worried that Google has gone too far.

Thankfully Google has quelled a few fears with its latest post about the technology on its Google+ page. “We’ve been listening closely to you, and many have expressed both interest and concern around the possibilities of facial recognition in Glass. As Google has said for several years, we won’t add facial recognition features to our products without having strong privacy protections in place.

Google also updated its Glass Platform Developer Policies site to reflect the new policy changes, making it quite explicit that any sort of recognition app is strictly forbidden. “Don’t use the camera or microphone to cross-reference and immediately present personal information identifying anyone other than the user, including cases such as facial recognition and voice print. Applications that do this will not be approved at this time.” Google also prohibits developers from making any software that would turn off the display when using the camera. Anyone worried about Glass being able to take pictures without anyone knowing can rest a little easier now. The display must now glow brightly when the camera is on and the Glass user still has to give a verbal command in order for a picture to be taken.

Yet for all these precautions, someone can still get around these prohibitions by simply hacking the device. In fact, the senior software engineer behind Google Glass, Stephen Lau, said months ago Google intentionally made Glass easy to hack so developers could “do crazy fun shit with it.” Basically, if anyone wanted to make any application they wanted for Google Glass, they could, they just wouldn’t be able to share it through the Google Play store or any other official channel. But plenty of Android users already sideload applications on their smartphones, so it’s not like Glass users will be any different.

For now, Google has prevented any official use of facial recognition software being made for Glass. It’s only a matter of time until someone circumvents it though.