Proving that sometimes our Congress people come by their paychecks honestly, a bi-partisan privacy caucus led by Joe Barton (Rep. TX) sent a list of questions to Google’s CEO Larry Page, asking him point blank about several privacy issues, including whether or not Google would allow the use of facial recognition technology on the device.
Supposedly, Google has maintained from the start that facial recognition would never be implemented without “strong privacy protections in place.” In a Google+ post Friday, they reiterated this position and stated that Google “…won’t be approving any facial recognition Glassware at this time.”
What this means for you:
By default, Android OS-based devices can only install software via Google’s Play store. Software distributed via Play must go through Google’s approval process, much like apps on Apple’s iTunes store, so you can assume that Google will be true to their word and prevent distribution of facial recognition apps simply by not approving them. However, unlike iPhones, many versions of Android allow “sideloading” of apps with a simple settings change. Sideloading in the Android ecosystem is well established – Amazon.com has an app store that requires sideloading to be enabled, and instructions for enabling this capability are easily found on their website and many, many others.
Bottom line: this is yet another Pandora’s box that won’t be closed. Facial recognition is a reality, and portable, undetectable devices capable of performing this function are only a step away from today’s consumer technology. Technology (and scientific progress in general) advances despite legal or cultural ramifications. One could argue that society only advances in light of controversial technologies like Google Glass. We are only beginning to glimpse the potential of an always connected and much less private world. Google Glass is only one step in a long, uphill climb.