Monday, 1 April 2013

Article 29 Working Party publishes opinion on Google Glasses

With impeccable timing, the Article 29 Working Party has published an opinion on the privacy implications of Google Glasses.

Evidently, for the last 7 months, regulators have been given unprecedented access to Google’s research files and have even been able to test the devices for themselves. 
So, as the trial specs are being supplied to a select group of 1,000 Google Beta trialists, the Article 29 Working Party’s opinion is also being made available to them.

258 of these trialists, although American citizens, actually live in the EU, and so it is quite important that they fully appreciate what the European regulators think of this product. I understand that some 87 of these trialists are students who currently live in Germany, but they have each promised only to use the Google Glasses when they travel outside of Germany. 

The 109 page opinion is written mostly in French – but that won’t affect the Googlewearers, as they will be able to use the pre-installed Googletranslate App. This App takes an image of the document the person is reading, and translates it into any language preferred by the wearer, displaying the text on the Google Glass itself. A wave of two fingers in front of the text prompts an aural, as well as a visual, translation of the material. 

Another pre-installed App is the facial recognition feature which, I am told, came in very handy at the last meeting of the Article 29 Working party. Finally, it appears, the regulators were able to recognise all of their colleagues, and from which authority they came from. Consternation arose, though, when a German regulator also managed to activate the Googlecreditcheck App. Representatives from Greece and Cyprus fled the room after he told everyone else how much money they had in their bank accounts.

The only downside to the Working Party’s opinion (other than the fact that the trialists’ data has to be stored on a shared server that only the CNIL and Google’s Data Supremo, Peter Fleisher, can access) is how users have to deal with the plethora of “cookie” notices that appear each time they navigate to a new web page. (Navigation is controlled by was of a shake of the head to the right or the left.) The “cookie” notices remain in view until the user raises one finger in front of the camera to indicate that they accept the installation of a cookie, and then a second finger to indicate that they are really sure they want the cookie to be installed.

So, if you see some odd people, constantly shaking their heads and flicking two fingers at people, please don’t get too upset.  They’re doing no evil. They’re just on Google.

Article 29 WP Opinion 14/13 on privacy implications, fundamental safeguards and appropriate measures for data controllers wearing Google Glasses