Google will not allow face recognition on its Glass wearable computer for now, until there are strong privacy protections.
"We've been listening closely to you, and many have expressed both interest and concern around the possibilities of facial recognition in Glass," the company's Project Glass wrote in a post on Google+ on Saturday.
The Project added that in line with Google's policy for several years, it won't add facial recognition features to its products "without having strong privacy protections in place." The company said it won't be approving any facial recognition Glassware at this time. Glassware are Web-based services that interact with Google Glass.
Google Glass has already come in for criticism on privacy and other issues. Eight members of the US Congress wrote to Google CEO Larry Page last month, asking for information on the privacy protections Google plans for the wearable computer. It reminded Google that in 2010 it was discovered that the company was collecting information across the world from unencrypted wireless networks.
"When using Google Glass, is it true that this product would be able to use Facial Recognition Technology to unveil personal information about whomever and even some inanimate objects that the user is viewing ?" the members of the Congressional Bipartisan Privacy Caucus asked.
Bans and prohibitions
A bill was also introduced in the West Virginia Legislature to make it an offense to operate a motor vehicle using a wearable computer with a head-mounted display. Casinos in Las Vegas and some bars are also considering banning the devices due to privacy concerns, according to reports. Lambda Labs, a startup in San Francisco, has offered a face-recognition application programming interface for Glass.
Google has modified its platform developer policies to prohibit the use of the camera or microphone "to cross-reference and immediately present personal information identifying anyone other than the user, including use cases such as facial recognition and voice print."
In response to concerns that Glass users may take video without the people around them knowing about it, Google has also told users not to turn off or disable the display when using the camera. "The display must become active when taking a picture and stay active during a video recording as part of your application," it added.