It was only a matter of time before the first facial recognition project for Google Glass was started. That project was announced earlier this week by Lambda Labs, and the Google Glass team has now backed away from the technology on Google+. According to the post, Google won't approve any "Glassware" utilizing facial recognition due to privacy concerns. The key word here is approve.


If you read the full statement, it's full of empty platitudes. Google makes all the right comforting noises about respecting privacy and learning from the users. That's all well and good, but give it a read:

Glass and Facial Recognition
When we started the Explorer Program nearly a year ago our goal was simple: we wanted to make people active participants in shaping the future of this technology ahead of a broader consumer launch. We've been listening closely to you, and many have expressed both interest and concern around the possibilities of facial recognition in Glass. As Google has said for several years, we won’t add facial recognition features to our products without having strong privacy protections in place. With that in mind, we won’t be approving any facial recognition Glassware at this time.

We’ve learned a lot from you in just a few weeks and we’ll continue to learn more as we update the software and evolve our policies in the weeks and months ahead.

Notice that nowhere did they say Google Glass could not run facial recognition. Glass runs Android, and the developer community has already hacked it to bits. Sideloading APKs is trivial, so all Google has promised here is that it won't approve any official Glassware facial recognition projects at this time. The Google Glass creepers are still coming for you – or not. Depends on how paranoid you are.

[Google Glass Team on Google+]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Samsung Fanboy

    I wish people would just STFU about privacy. there's no such thing as privacy in public !! people are not overly concerned with smart phones so they shouldn't be concerned about this either.

    • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

      Glass is much, much more subtle though.

      • George Millhouse

        Subtle?? You call a large object strapped to your head subtle?

        • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

          More subtle than your average moron with a smartphone camera. I imagine a lot of people wouldn't know what it is, let alone know there is a camera on it.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          The point is it just sits there and you don't know what it's doing. Is it recording? Is it feeding information? Is it hanging out live with a bunch of people who are listening and watching you live? So yes, in that sense, it is subtle.

          • Ark

            Even *if* you could make it record without saying "Glass, record", why would you say anything you wanted kept private to someone with an obvious recording device strapped to their heads?

          • http://www.facebook.com/leonardob0880 Leonardo Baez

            have you ever read any glass review? you can take pics or videos just touching a button

          • Ark

            Go to ebay. Type "SPY 1080p HD Digital Video Glasses Hidden Camera Eyewear DVR Camcorder Eyeglass".

            these film for a long time, so you don't need to touch any buttons. Start filming before you leave home.

            See, people who want to film you without you knowing it? Using glasses that are far more discreet than Glass? they can already do it. This wont make regular people creeps any more than a handgun makes regular people murderers.

          • ElfirBFG

            I don't understand why more people cannot understand this. Spy glasses are nothing new and they certainly are harder to spot than Glass.

    • mesmorino

      There is a reason people do not live in glass houses, or walk around naked. The concept of privacy in a public space is hardly revolutionary and is very real.

      • George Millhouse

        No such thing as private out in public

        • Asphyx

          A Bathroom is a public space is that also exempt from privacy?

          • haroonazeem638

            You dont just go into a public bathroom and shit in front of everyone while they are looking at you, do you? Do not try to confuse people with the meaning of "Public space"

          • Asphyx

            Is shitting all you do in a bathroom?

          • VoiceofSky


        • Wesley Modderkolk

          If I would see you in real life I'm sure to take a look on your phone and take a good look what you are doing, maybe you're just playing angry birds then but I'd doubt it takes a long time before you point your privacy to me, probably in a way like; "stop watching what I'm doing", so yes, there is privacy in public.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      If I see someone filming me with a camera, I'll know that I am being recorded and to act appropriately, but Glass is not like that. I was at I/O where like 15 percent of the people were wearing them, and I gotta tell ya - I was a big fan of Glass in theory before then, but I have half changed my mind. Yes, it does make you look like a douche and yes, it does make you feel paranoid as fuck.

      It is scary what the future can bring when you revolve around these things for a while.

      • milksop held

        *emp activate* problems solved

        • George Millhouse

          Um no

        • Sean White

          I'm gonna have to say no, there are people in this world that need electrics to live (ie pacemakers) thus not worth it for privacy

          • milksop held

            It was a joke

      • http://www.deathbycone.com Jared Kotoff

        You probably are unaware of how often you are being filmed. In public i can legally take pictures of you all i want, children too, as long as they are on public property. I kind of agree with Fanboy, while its creepy and im glad google doesn't support it, theres really nothing you can do about it.

      • Asphyx

        It goes far beyond just what people might do....

        Google today was compelled to hand over 17 of 19 requests for private info (according to google it violates their privacy policy with users) to the FBI.

        Imagine what kind of data the FBI could request from those who are wearing glass just to try and catch someone who isn't!

        Slippery slope we are heading towards because the world doesn't need more cameras and information to be pilfered and blackmailed with.

        • Ark

          >Imagine what kind of data the FBI could request from those who are wearing glass just to try and catch someone who isn't!

          ...what? 5mp pictures? Shitty cat videos? Oh man, I'm quaking in my boots.

          • Asphyx

            Yeah well how do you think they found the Boston Marathon Bomber?

            A Police Sketch?

            My guess is you really don't have a clue how much data is included in the pics these days, GPS location, Timestamps etc...

            Imagine what they could do just with the facial recognition data alone!

            You don't want to I suppose you trust the government right?
            I suggest you apply for Non-Profit status to cure yourself of that! LOL
            Or become a Reporter!

          • Barnassey

            They found the bomber AFTER the lockdown was lifted by a man who went out for a smoke. Not by facial recognition tech but dumb luck.

          • Asphyx

            No they found WHO to look for long before he got in that boat because they SHOT him before he got in that boat!

          • Ark

            No, they clearly used google glass blurry 5mp pictures.

          • Asphyx

            Yep they did they found his face and accomplice from blurry cell phone pictures!

          • Ark

            Right. Cell phone pictures.

      • http://www.vrdwellersblog.com/ Miles Reiter

        But glass is no different than if you were to use a camera disguised as something else, or mount a go-pro on your head or something. Google Glass is just a different form factor and for some reason people find that form factor creepy. If I want to record you then 1. I can do so in public whenever I want and however I want. 2. I can hide that I'm doing so from you very easily.
        But there's no difference between Google Glass and taping a camera to your head, so if you want to be paranoid about something be paranoid about ALL recording devices.

        • Cerberus_tm

          The difference is that it would become socially acceptable to be wearing a camera on your head, so it would no longer be only creeps with hidden cameras, and the number of people doing that would increase a millionfold.

          As Artem said, the difference with cell phones is that you need to carry out furtive movements at best, if you want to film someone without drawing attention.

          Thirdly, the video stream is automatically analysed and process in Glass, so it really is more like a surveillance system in a way. Of course this aspect of it can also be done on smartphones.

          • didibus

            So what, either people will start to behave more appropriately, and conform to all publicly accepted behaviors, or everyone will stop giving a f**k and all will be well again. Anyways, whatever will be filmed was also seen by the person who filmed it. The only difference, he can show it to other people afterwards, where as before, he could only tell people about it.

      • Ark

        Go to ebay and type "glasses camera".

        Yes, you can get one with 8gb storage that films in HD for 50 bucks.

        In fact, you've been able to do similar things since 1990.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          Glass brings ubiquity to such devices - that's the biggest difference. Nobody's going to go around their daily lives with a Go Pro on their head, and if they do, they would look damn weird to everyone around them. And sure, if someone wants to record me, they can with hidden cameras. But they're not nearly ubiquitous enough for me to feel paranoid every moment of my life. Just like peep cameras aren't a big concern when going to bathrooms.

          On the other hand, people who wear Glass are supposed to be wearing it in their daily lives and never take it off. They will be everywhere. And when everyone around you is looking at you and you're not sure if they're hanging out with their buddies live, you're going to suddenly feel vulnerable. Just wait, you'll see what I mean in a few years.

          • Ark

            This can record for like 3 hours max, if the Verge and Engadget videos can be considered a source. And gopros aren't tiny 5mp cameras.

            We have no idea if this will catch on. Calling it ubiquitous NOW is silly at best, shameless fear mongering at worst.

            And people film everything on celphone cameras now already. I'm having trouble picturing a situation where something could be captured with Glass that would be any more troublesome than what we can do with current phones. I'm sure you bloggers had the same trouble, since not one of these "Glass signifies the end of all privacy" articles mentions examples of how this is any different than pulling out your S4 to film a bar fight. What, is it socially acceptable to have sex with electronics strapped to your head where you live? Maybe to gawk at strangers penises when they are taking a leak on public restrooms?

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            Obviously, I'm not talking about this very moment when Glass is in the hands of a few thousand people. I'm talking about 2nd, 3rd gen, and so on when it's cheap enough and robust enough for a sizable chunk of the population to own one. I'm talking several years or a decade from now.
            As for examples, yes, someone can film you by whipping out their phones but you can always tell when that happens. If someone walks into a room with Glass on, you have no idea if they started recording and you're now part of a live hangout or not. If someone walks in with a phone and points it at you, you will have an idea. It's silly to even argue that there's a difference, and it's getting too late for me to continue doing so.

            Good night.

          • Ark

            Again, anyone who even wants to do what you're saying you're afraid of can already do it, for far less money than any gen of Glass will cost, and those who don't, won't suddenly decide to.

            But hey, I'm sure these "Well you SHOULD all be afraid, the sky is obviously falling" articles drive a lot of traffic.

          • Cerberus_tm

            The only hope I have is that it will remain socially unacceptable to be wearing a camera on your head that could film people. It could be forbidden in public, like smoking, which can be equally undesirable.

          • Pierre Gardin

            Nobody talked about a GoPro - you're fighting a straw man.

            What about this 100 $ -> http://www.spytecinc.com/hidden-video-camera-glasses.html

          • Cody Curry

            Ubiquity isn't necessarily a bad thing. You could say the same about cars at the turn of the century. Inefficient, don't work well on unpaved roads, drivers are a liability, can get up to ridiculous speeds on what are supposed to be foot paths. Well, you have to be rich and will stand out if you have one... until the Model T comes along and everyone buys one.

            People have never had privacy in public. People never will. Anyone who actually wants to record something for nefarious purposes can buy a spy camera and 80% of the time they'll probably get away with it. People being aware of that object on your face? That's just paranoia.

            I've already seen a few "internet tough guys" talking about how they'd punch someone who walked into a bathroom wearing Glass. The fact of the matter is, 99% of the population doesn't want to see whatever it is you don't want them to see, and they certainly have no use for recorded images of it. And that other 1%? They've been finding some way to do it without your knowledge or consent for years.

            I'd rather everyone be aware of the danger than not. But blaming Glass for causing the danger because of ubiquity? That's ridiculous.

      • Ark

        What database would this fabled facial recognition software hook into, exactly? Because it needs one to actually do the "recognizing" part, right? The Lambda website didn't recognize me or any of my friends. It could get scary for Tiger Woods and Jennifer Aniston though. Then again I had a surprising lack of difficulty recognizing them already.

        • Cerberus_tm

          This is indeed my only hope: because a facial database will always remain expensive to create and maintain, it may not become feasible for any less-than-huge company. And the law can probably effectively forbid huge companies from using such a database. We do all have to set our Facebook pictures to private, though.

          • Ark

            Pretty huge hope. If this can't connect to an existing social network, it basically can't do anything useful.

      • http://www.facebook.com/koniczynek Michał Droździewicz

        Please consider this: you are being constantly filmed by the government and security agencies in most of the countries. This should make you feel paranoid, not some kiddo with Google Glass.

      • Ian Santopietro

        But if they were recording you, the screen/indicator light would be on...

      • Paul Smith

        Assuming that just because you can't see a camera, you aren't being filmed is a DANGEROUS assumption.

        You are being filmed all the time, everywhere you go. Get used to it. If you can't, then writing for a technology blog is not your vocation in life.

      • GazaIan

        " I'll know that I am being recorded and to act appropriately"

        Well shouldn't we all be acting appropriately in public anyway?

      • Pierre Gardin

        By the way, cameras can have zooms, sometimes 20x. You can be on record without knowing it.

      • Tyler

        They could solve this problem if they put a little led that could be seen from 10ft away. Kinda like how laptops with webcams have it.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          I am very surprised there isn't a light. That makes no sense, especially in a product like this one.

      • Matthew Fry

        I can't wait for how the TV dramas start integrating this into their storylines.
        "This was first hand footage of the murder we just don't know whose Google Glasses these are!"
        "Tapping into the CCTVGlass network. I've got the suspect on multiple heads."

      • Zap

        Good, if you need a camera to act 'appropriately" then i hope EVERYONE gets a google glass so you fucking pricks can be policed ALWAYS.

    • Could be Anyone

      Well its obvious that in public there is no privacy however with stuff like this you can just look into someone's home and find out a crap ton of information about them when they are in a private environment which defeats the whole purpose of privacy.

      You think everyone has location and stuff on all the time allowing google to track you? Hell no! Those that understand how this works aren't as gullible to allow their privacy to be invaded by both google and other people.

      • Wesley Modderkolk

        "You think everyone has location and stuff on all the time allowing google to track you? "
        You dont need GPS to get an accurate enough location from someone. Wifi itself is enough, even regular Cellular connections can be more than enough to get a location that is accurate enough.

    • Asphyx

      When a picture of you taking a Pee shows up on some gay website or pictures and movies of your kids are posted on child Porn sites you will care that no one has to hold up a camera anymore just look over to take away your privacy!

      And as someone else suggested it's perfectly legal to take someone else's picture if they are in a public place this is just the type of thing that if it gets out of hand gets laws passed to stop everyone from taking pictures in public places!

    • Michael Ta

      My thoughts exactly.

      It's not like someone is going to stalk me and spy on me while i'm singing in the shower. Nobody knows how many hidden camera out there and nobody gaf. But google glass come and "ohhhhhh i'm scared he'll take a pictures of my face". Seriously you're not some kind of celebrity who worth 10$ per shot. So If i happened to take a picture of you, 99% i'll discard it. Unless you're doing something stupid, which if you were so afraid of being captured, you shouldn't have done it in public in the first place.

      my 2 cents.

    • Wesley Modderkolk

      I'm not paranoid on this or anything, but I dont want to get filmed/photographed in public and neither do I want to be recognised by everyone I see in public. And yes, it could be that I accidentally walk in the camera's view and get in the picture, but that is different than actually aiming the camera at me. Taking pictures/filming someone feels more like stalking than just taking a picture.

      • John O’Connor

        well that is rather hard to define. there will always be people in the background in a public place when you are taking pictures. Whether people are taking pictures in the park, landmarks, or anything of any interest.

        It can and will happen regardless of the amount of privacy you are trying to create. Most people are situationally aware to a certain degree and will not step in someone's camera range if they are taking a photo of a friend or family member and trying to capture the view behind them. I have plenty of pictures that I took while in San Francisco for I/O of public spaces, landmarks (or for submitting ingress portals. Since the world has not suffered some apocalyptic occurrence wherein very few people are around or moving in public, I am sure that I have countless images where a person may have been caught in pictures (in public places) I am taking whether they are 10 ft away, 20 feet, 30 feet, etc. I don't think it would be reasonable to expect that everyone in the vicinity should vacate whatever space I am taking a picture in just on the off chance that they may have been inadvertently captured by my camera.

        So yes, this is a little overkill on the expectation of "privacy" in a public space and sadly as many others have pointed out there are so many more discrete ways in which someone who is intentionally violating privacy can capture pictures, videos or sound recording. Unless Google Glass has installed a parabolic mike or upgraded the camera specs to such an amazing degree (which they have not) then the chances that you will ever be intentionally or inadvertently targeted by users of glass with any resulting clarity of visual or audio, are slim to none.

    • shonangreg

      If there is a demand for privacy, then we will have it. Many bars and other places will serve the clientele. If you are wearing google glass or any other commonly available surreptitious recorder, or maybe if your google glass is not certified to respect opt-in privacy controls, then you will not be allowed in. And yes, they will look at your buttons and pens just like they do now for weapons. Bars that don't do this will lose customers. I imagine we'll even end up with two classes of bars and such.

      This is simple. In public, we will have less privacy. In private establishments, what the customers want they will get.

      Who's the clueless moron who needs to STFU now?

  • MrNinjaPanda

    That's what rooting is for.

  • http://www.vrdwellersblog.com/ Miles Reiter

    Google Glass raises no new privacy concerns in terms of being recorded, there is no difference between it and any other head mounted camera, and there's tons of options available for anyone who wants to, to record you in a manner where you can't necessarily tell they're recording you.

  • Ark

    1. Facial recognition software is something Google (and facebook) have said several times they would never implement.

    2. "Spy devices" have been around since early 90s. You can get "spy glasses" that film in HD for longer than Glass for like 70 bucks. They don't have the prism in front.

    3. This is happening. We're getting Glass, and it will film. Competitors will arrive and all of those will film. It will not be any worse for out privacy than celphone cameras.

    I understand that making people afraid drives a lot of internet traffic, and if every tech news site can blow on this kindling enough they might create a fire, but for the love of fuck, think about what you're doing. Do you really want to use these FOX News tactics just for a few extra bucks?

  • Ark

    Facial recognition software needs a database to actually do anything. Since neither Google nor Facebook are going to let facial recognition software access their databases (it's been said multiple times in the past), worrying about this is beyond silly.

    • https://plus.google.com/u/0/114994124650840583731 Phil D.

      Third party software....

      • Ark


        Are you under the impression that any dumbass can make software that taps into google/fb database?

  • http://www.facebook.com/koniczynek Michał Droździewicz

    There are cases (brain damages, neurological problems) causing people to loose face recognition ability. Consider application which will aid them in the daily tasks enabling them to distinguish their kids from their spouses and work colleagues. Every technology is a double edged sword.

    • Matthew Fry

      That is a stupendous idea- I'm surprised this niche hasn't already been filled. That would be such a boon in their lives.

  • ElfirBFG

    Still waiting for the inevitable here...


  • TechGuy22

    still waiting for a porn app LOL

  • Primalxconvoy

    aren't there smartphone apps that utilize suicidal network or other "public" info concerning users, which combined with augmented reality and gps, give rough estimates of which people in front of you are whichever name they've used as a username?

    For example, it will put names over users with smartphones walking in public, etc?

    • John O’Connor

      Many apps have such limited ability when given access and combined can aggregate and identify a lot more data, but most likely it will be limited to those in your network who have opted to share that location data with any third party. latitude does this in near real-time, foursquare and check-in apps can do similar.

      There will likely never be a public repository of such aggregated data (outside of government) where any individual can be identified by any other without that individual's permission or consent

  • Girl_Photographer

    It will take a picture... and send a copy to a remote server... but we will all "promise" not to identify any of the people in the picture. Promise. Honest.

    (Is this some kind of joke? Google's April Fools?)

  • Girl_Photographer

    It will take a picture... and send a copy to a remote server... but we will all "promise" not to identify any of the people in the picture. Promise. Honest.

    (Is this some kind of joke? Google's April Fools?)

  • John O’Connor

    Well. I suppose it's high time to start a Kickstarter project for tinfoil hats with active camouflage holographic projection.

  • Ralph1001

    Loose = not tight!

  • brommas

    You know it is going to come at some point, I for 1 value my privacy and feel this is a step too far. Googlw clearly wants a framework in this area. I.m.o there are too many ways that this can be abused. We are all guinea pigs with the tech that is being utilised now. You cant walk down the street in underpants without being arrested(if for some strange reason you would want to) but you can have your brain zapped by wireless tech all day long. I love tech but there are issues that need to be made safe first, just because you cant see something does not mean it is not damaging everyone.

  • Graham Healy

    Maybe if they made a bluetooth or NFC type radius so when activated, if someone came within 10M of you, recording would be disabled.