Google recently cited privacy concerns as justification for updating company policies to ban applications that use facial recognition software from their Google Glass product. As Google moves forward updating the software, developers note that such apps can be loaded to the system without Google’s permission, implying that a “ban is purely symbolic.” The project team posting to its Google+ page: “We won’t add facial recognition features to our products without having strong privacy protections in place. With that in mind, we won’t be approving any facial recognition Glassware at this time.” We asked our Zintro experts to discuss the possibility and implications of this technology becoming relatively widespread.
Michael Nuciforo, a globally recognized Mobile and Payments expert, explains that Google “understand[s] they are going to be the victims of breaking new ground. By being proactive with governments and privacy campaigners, Google can pull back hard at the start, and slowly open the floodgates over time.” Nuciforo sees the ban as strategic, asserting, “Google knows that a successful launch of Glass is intrinsically linked to limiting the amount of noise regarding privacy concerns.”
John Rodley, an expert in mobile applications, sees the ban in a slightly different light. “Glass is in the hysteria phase and Google is not doing itself or the technology any favors by limiting release to the chosen few, of whom I am one. The history of the industry is pretty clear that anything that can be done, will be done, so halting or turning back the clock on Glass won’t happen.” Many have expressed worry about the lack of privacy that accompanies mobile technology that is capable of connecting a name with a face once given a photo. Rodley responds to this concern by pointing out that “The thing to remember about Glass and facial recognition is that if you fear Big Brother, that bridge has been crossed. Big Brother already has this. The only question now is whether Little Brother (i.e. you) will get it too. So yes, it will happen.”
Confident we will see the day this technology is accessible to the public, Rodley continues: “The second question here is whether or not that’s a good thing. Are there beneficial uses of facial recognition on Glass that warrant allowing the technology to become widespread? I think the answer there is almost certainly yes. These range from the compelling, but narrow case of prosopagnosia, to the broader case of people like me who just have a hard time putting names to faces.” For John Rodley, “the hysteria around Glass seems to be more driven by the resurgent American tendency to view everything in black and white. [For example, the] markets are free or they’re not, so any regulation is anathema. Technologies, like markets, can be managed but it takes political power to do it.”
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