Privacy concerns for Google eyewear

Professors at Stanford’s Human-Computer Interaction Group said that a recently announced Google concept, codenamed “Project Glass,” could give consumers access to a technology previously restricted to scientists.

Professors Scott Klemmer and Terry Winograd warned, however, that privacy concerns linger over the concept, which aims to bring heads-up display (HUD) technology to the masses via a set of glasses. These glasses would include a microphone, a small display over the right eye and a camera that examines the user’s surroundings.

“It’s been possible to buy a glasses-mounted heads-up display for over 20 years, and pioneers at MIT’s Wearable Computing Group…have worn heads-up displays every day for a long time,” Klemmer said.

He added, though, that prior to Google’s concept HUD glasses, the displays “have been really clunky” and “needed a computer and a large battery pack” in order to function.

For the first time, Google has created a HUD in a “compelling and integrated package,” Klemmer said.

The augmented reality eyewear would give users the ability to put on a pair of glasses and have laid out in front of them on a heads-up display everything from emails or location-aware maps to a summary of the tasks they have scheduled for the day.

Paul Benigeri ’14 said he is interested in using the glasses but wary of their possible effects on his ability to synthesize information. Google pitches the glasses as giving students the ability to look up a word they don’t understand when reading in a foreign language and compose text by talking to the glasses.

“If I have all the information I could ever want constantly available to me, I would never remember any of it,” Benigeri said. “So although these glasses could give me any information I need, if I never learn and internalize any of it, I may have a hard time thinking about it or building upon it in the future.”

According to Stanford professors, many privacy implications go along with widespread use of Google’s glasses, specifically related to the camera and microphone built into the glasses.

Winograd wrote in an email to The Daily of some concerns over giving people the ability to inconspicuously record others.

“If it gets used for always-on video recording, that [could] add a lot to privacy issues about being photographed (and even worse, voice-recorded),” Winograd said.

Winograd also noted that products such as miniature video cameras already exist to enable such activities, and added that the inclusion of this ability in Google’s product isn’t all that that different from what’s already available.

He added that privacy concerns could become “more pervasive” if standard-used glasses had recording capabilities.

Google is widely expected to release the glasses by the end of the year at a price point between $250 and $600, but the company has yet to give any official indication.