Google privacy issues galore: Glass concerns reappear

Google wants its users to think it’s looking out for their privacy: Tuesday, it petitioned the special FISA court to allow it to disclose NSA requests for user information separately from routine law-enforcement requests. But as the Internet giant tries to do damage control after the revelation of Prism — U.S. government surveillance enabled by information from tech companies — it is also dealing with a nagging privacy issue about Google Glass, its Internet-connected glasses.

As we’ve mentioned before, the $1,500 specs have their share of critics and skeptics. Add 10 data and privacy commissioners from around the world to that list. Oh, and famous activist Noam Chomsky.

Commissioners from Australia, Canada, Mexico and elsewhere have written a letter (hat tip to ZDNet) to Google CEO Larry Page, asking the company to “engage in a real dialogue with data protection authorities about Glass.” They say all the information they have about the product, which is in the hands of a select few, comes mostly from the media. The letter asks many questions, including  what kind of information Glass will collect and what it will do with it; what the company intends to do about facial recognition long-term; and what Google is doing to address “broader social and ethical issues” raised by Glass, including, for example, its ability to record video secretly.

And in a recent interview (HT VentureBeat), philosopher and rabble-rouser Chomsky called Glass “ridiculous” and Orwellian.

Those who have previously voiced privacy concerns about Glass include frequent Google critic John M. Simpson, director of  Consumer Watchdog. Simpson pointed out recently that (like other companies) Google prohibits recording at its shareholder meetings, something Glass can do, of course. In addition, at least one bar has barred Glass. And so have casinos.


Google’s Sergey Brin wears Glass. (Associated Press)



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  • Mark Andreesen thinks you’ll be lonely and isolated if you don’t have Google Glass. Coming from the Valley’s ugliest VC with a bald, egg-shaped head, that’s kinda rich. Who said being rich automatically means that you’re correct?

    Cripes, these things are the stupidest things ever. I think they will absolutely bomb out there in the real world.

  • Chuck Karish

    The lede for this post is unworthy of what the Mercury News. If I want to read cheesy cheap shots, I know where to find Gawker.

    • Levi Sumagaysay

      Chuck: The tech companies that have been reported to be part of Prism are all doing damage control, and we’ve said so. Not picking on Google here, it just so happens this post is about Google and privacy issues.

  • Chuck Karish

    It’s unfair to portray as just more spin any company’s response to the inaccurate accusations that were made in the initial revelation of the NSA’s PRISM-based program. Google has a record of protecting user data from government fishing expeditions, and they’ve been open with their users about the extent to which they can protect that data from being subpoenaed.

    That they aren’t about to commit corporate suicide to live up to Edward Snowden’s standard of ethical purity is an issue for another blog post.