Google Glass and privacy: US Congress wants answers from Larry Page

. Congress aired its privacy concerns on Thursday by asking Google chief Larry Page what privacy safeguards are being put into Glass, which is in early testing among developers who have shelled out $1,500 for the smart eye device.

New York: There are fears that with its discrete built-in camera and Internet capabilities, Google Glass could turn us all into voyeurs, invading each other's privacy with careless abandon. Congress aired its privacy concerns on Thursday by asking Google chief Larry Page what privacy safeguards are being put into Glass, which is in early testing among developers who have shelled out $1,500 for the smart eye device.

The demands come as hundreds of developers have converged on San Francisco for the Google I/O conference, where it is helping hundreds of developers on how to write programs for the device. The letter from the Congressional bi-partisan Privacy Caucus to Page asks Google:

How it would prevent Google Glass from unintentionally collecting data about the user/non-user without consent?

What protective steps is Google taking to protect the privacy of non-users when Google Glass is in use?

Whether it is true the product would be able to use facial recognition technology to unveil personal information about whomever and even some inanimate objects that the user is viewing?

The Congressmen asked Page to give them answers in writing by 14 June.

Google Glass and privacy: US Congress wants answers from Larry Page

Google Glass is facing some tough questions from US Congress. Image via Google

On Wednesday, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said the company had thought about some privacy implications for Glass and made sure people who aren't using the device would be able to tell when it is "on" and could be recording them using its built-in camera. Google Glass won't be able to record information without lighting up its small screen so that people next to the wearer can see it is on.

Brin took Glass for a stroll during the Google I/O conference and was mobbed by fans who wanted him to demonstrate how to take pictures and videos with the device. He revealed that a future software upgrade will keep videos steady when Glass wearers are filming. According to developers who have tried out Google's wearable computing device, the footage is much steadier than what you often see from a shaky camera phone. But Google is working on making Glass photography even better.

"Stay tuned, we're gonna have some software that helps you out," Brin said. It's unclear how exactly that will be implemented, but digital image stabilisation is already widely used in smartphones and Google might be using a similar system.

Google Glass lets people take photos and record videos by touching the side of the device, which is worn like regular glasses, or speaking commands aloud, preceded by the words "OK, Glass." People also can use Google search and get turn-by-turn navigation information on the small computer screen above one eye.

As you might expect for a device named the "Explorer Edition" and aimed squarely at developers, Glass is still a work-in-progress. Google aims to translate what it learns from this small-scale deployment to the eventual consumer version which is expected to be launched sometime next year. Before that the rush is on for developers to create more apps called "Glassware."

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