Facts on Google Glass and Privacy

We’ve touched on Google Glass a few times at Slaw; and today I’d like to extend that conversation by highlighting a great article by Matt McGee over on Marketing Land: The Google Glass Privacy Debate: What’s Real & What’s Overblown Hype.

While Glass isn’t yet available in Canada (though it is nice to see our Privacy Commissioner quizzing Google early), I thought McGee did an excellent job clarifying some of the technological facts surrounding the product. Here are a few notable clips:

  • “Photos and videos done with Glass aren’t uploaded publicly to the web, despite what some would have you believe. They are uploaded privately to Google+ via Auto-Backup and can be shared publicly from there.”
  • “Glass goes into standby mode very quickly. And from there, it requires noticeable movement/gestures to be activated. You either have to reach up and touch Glass to activate it, or you have to tilt your head. … In a group of people, it’s almost impossible to activate Glass and take photos/videos without being noticed.”
  • “The camera isn’t very powerful and has no zoom capabilities. When I’m taking pictures or shooting video, it’s hard to see people (and what they’re doing) unless they’re within 30-40 feet. A still photographer with a DSLR camera that connects to the internet is much more capable of violating someone’s privacy than I am when wearing Glass.”
  • Google’s product FAQ response on how the device informs non-Glass users they are being recorded: “We have built explicit signals in Glass to make others aware of what’s happening. First, the device’s screen is illuminated whenever it’s in use, and that applies to taking a picture or recording a video. Second, Glass requires the user to either speak a command — “OK Glass, take a picture” or “OK Glass, record a video” — or to take an explicit action by pressing the button on the top of Glass’s frame. In each case the illuminated screen, voice command or gesture all make it clear to those around the device what the user is doing.
  • Another from the FAQ, on the use of Facial Recognition: “Glass doesn’t do facial recognition, and we have no plans to add it.
  • Google has also announced it won’t approve any Glass apps that use facial recognition.
  • “Casinos, for example, are starting to ban Google Glass, just like they also ban the use of smartphones while gambling.”

Google has actually said a fair bit about their product, but the statements are dispersed across a number of online locations. McGee does a reasonably good job of gathering these pieces in one place, and even touches on the Stoddart letter mentioned above.


  1. The privacy issues around Google Glass and other wearable computing do require some thought – but I agree that it’s not necessarily as evil as some make it out to be.

    As is often the case with privacy, the worst case scenarios are when there is a mothership that is doing unwanted things with the info.

    The first Canadian to get Google Glass is an acquaintance of mine here in London, and I had a chance to try it out earlier this week. Very cool.

  2. It’s laughable to believe you couldn’t find multiple work arounds to trigger photo and video taking without “noticeable movement/gestures” and when CTV is giving major reporting to ‘zoom contact lenses’ upgrades to the GG are just around the corner.