Google had recently forbidden Glass app developers from creating facial recognition apps, fearing user security and privacy concerns. These apps have the potential to enable the device wearers to capture random pictures of passers-by without their knowledge. Taking these possibilities into serious consideration, the company has assured the public that it would not add the facial recognition feature without first setting stringent enough privacy protection policies for the same.
The Google Glass platform developer policies clearly stipulate the condition that developers cannot use the camera or microphone to create apps that could be used to gather personally identifiable information of anyone other than the user. The company has also specified that the Glass display light must necessarily be turned on while wearers are taking pictures or videos. This would let others know that they are in recording mode.
Hackers Work to Manipulate Glass
On the one hand, the giant has stated that apps such as the above would not be distributed via official channels. However, on the other hand, it has encouraged developers to go ahead and hack Glass, saying that it has purposely kept the gadget unlocked, so as to enable people to get creative and play around with its many features and functionality. There are now developers who have taken advantage of this loophole in order to create apps that violate Google’s stipulations.
One experienced hacker recently managed to enable facial recognition software on the device, in spite of Google explicitly restricting the same. He has achieved this feat by building an alternate OS, which is not controlled by Google, but runs on Glass all the same. Basically, he used his own software to employ the front-mounted camera to recognize faces. Now, he is also encouraging others to try and break some more restrictions and create interesting software for the wearable mobile device. Hackers such as these are endeavoring to prove that it is possible to sideload apps by rooting Glass.
The above and similar other episodes have raised fresh questions on the device’s security vulnerabilities. Google remains firm on its stand, reiterating that it would retain complete control on Glass by constant working to block restricted apps and refraining from issuing automatic software updates.
However, one has to wonder if Google would actually be able to exercise total control when the device finally launches in the retail market. Google is obviously trying to get talented developers to push their limits and build different and novel apps for its very futuristic device. But would this device prove to be more of a bane than a boon in the near future? Would Google be able to keep up its promise of providing security and privacy to both users and to the public at large?
We continue to wait and watch as the debate rages on. Only time will reveal if Google would actually be able to fulfill its promise and ensure complete safety for users as well as for those preferring not to use the device.
Update on October 10, 2013: Google Glass: Back in the Spotlight with the Latest Update