Google Glass. It takes pictures and video. And you can google with it. It shows you the way in an unknown city. That’s all really cool, but what does it mean for our right to privacy? That of ourselves and the people around us. I read through all the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policies. Google succeeded in making that a real nontransparent, messy business. What I learned you find out in this post. Do you want a Google Glass?
Buy a Google Glass
Remarkable is dat the user is held responsible for the data on Google Glass. This means that you are responsible for what data gets onto your Google Glass, whether and how you share it, but also in the case of loss. While Google is the one that stores and uses all that data. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
Google can deactivate Google Glass remotely. For example in the case of theft. That does not mean however that they will also erase your data for you. The finder could be tempted to see what interesting personal information is to be found on your Glass and keep that as its finder’s fee, with or without the Glass. Google of course cannot be held accountable. So you better hold on to your Glass.
Images. Pictures and videos are automatically uploaded to Google+ Instant Upload album. Just like happens already when you upload a picture on your smartphone. Google has access to those pictures. Whether or not the explorer shares them with others is up to him, but Google can access them in any event. Whether he likes it or not. I wonder whether Google is able to record and store pictures and video without user interaction necessary. Perhaps they do not link it to the user’s Google Account, but what if they can? And what are they doing with those ‘anonymous’ recordings?
Google Terms of Service
Google’s Terms of Service apply to all of Google’s services. That includes Google+ and Gmail.
Google+ and Google Glass are made to share information. The content you upload to a Google service may be communicated, published, performed, displayed and distributed publicly. And what you get out of all that? Improved services, of course. Sweet, but that content may also include (sensitive) personal information that Google may use. Securely e-mailing some personal information may be (in any event) a bad idea.
Scared? Want to delete your Google Account now? It might be too late already. The information you shared with Google may be retained by Google and used for promotional purposes and to improve their service even after you close your account with them.
Google collects two types of information:
1. Information that you share. E.g. your name and e-mail address and content you upload to Google services like pictures, e-mails and messages on Google+.
2. Information that Google collects about you while using their services. Like:
Information about your device, including its unique identifier and – if it is a smartphone – your phone number. This information is then linked to your Google Account. Which means that Google can probably still track you when you are logged out. Considering they now have other means to identify you, that would be technically possible.
Log information. This includes basically anything you do with or on Google services, like search queries, the device you used, its settings, your IP-address and so on.
Location and GPS-information is tracked and stored whenever you use Google to find a nearby coffee shop or burger joint.
Cookies and anonymous identifiers. In other words: tracking. This makes that Google know what you do on your computer and smartphone. What websites you visit and so you do not have to log in again every time you come back to Google.
What does Google do with all that information?
Good question! They use it for their services. Which includes advertisements, because services means all of Google’s services. Even Google AdWords and Google Analytics which you may be not interested in. “There is that Amazon-product again!” Oh and Google can use your name for any other Google service that requires a Google Account. This means that we don’t actually know how they will use the information. Google left all options open.
Information about others
Do you have other people’s personal information? Or does someone else have personal information about you? That’s all it takes for Google to happily show your public profile to them. A name, an e-mail address or a phone number is all it takes. Remember last time you got an e-mail including a gazillion addresses in the to: box rather than the bcc? Makes you think, huh? Good thing is that this is just about your public profile, meaning that anything you do not want to show up there can be blocked by you. Or can it? More about a peculiar exception (or was it a glitch?), experienced by an Explorer, later on.
As if all of the above weren’t enough, Google reserves the right to combine the data you enter on its services. So if you enter data on you YouTube-profile Google may add that to your Google+ profile. No questions asked. This is how Google can create a complete profile of you. What you do in life and what interests you can potentially be determined. The better the profile, the more it’s worth. And the higher Google’s profits can soar.
Google Glass makes this even worse. It gives Google more information about the user, there will be information about the surroundings of the user and other people and all that can be combined.
Controlling your information
Google does allow you to manage and check the information it has about you (after the fact). This means you can edit or even delete information about you and determine what information is shown to whom. That is: to which other people. You cannot control what Google will do with your information. In fact you control only what is truly publicly available. The fact that Google stores everything en builds a profile on you behind the scenes is a given that you cannot change. Sure, you may request Google to delete information it has about you, but if they feel that such a request is “extremely impractical” they reserve the right to deny it. The example they give is the request to delete information an a backup disk. My guess would be that Goolge backs everything up. Especially since they state that even when you delete information it may still be accessible on active servers for a while and that they will not delete that information form their backup system.
Google’s really a sweetheart here. They allow you to switch off cookies in your very own browser! Be warned though, Google services may not work as expected because of it. They may forget your preferred language and they will not be able to show you tailored advertisements. What a terrible thing.
What Google shares with others
All those free services need to make Google money in some way of course. That’s done by selling or sharing information and by selling advertising space. Google does not share personal information with other businesses or individuals outside of Google without your consent. That’s a good thing right? And sensitive personal information is only shared if your opt-in. Erm, excuse me? Does that mean the consent Google talks about for non-sensitive information is on an opt-out basis? Google feels that with regard tot non-sensitive information you consent to sharing, unless you say you do not.
Furhtermore Google shares information with affiliates and other trusted partners to process personal information. Information that cannot be traced back to an individual is shared with the public and partners. This concerns statistics with regard to Google’s advertisement services.
Remarkable is that Google states in that policy that it shares information about you with others that someone else published about you.
A Google+ profile is public by default. You can block access to some of it. Be aware though that Google will still have access to information you blocked for the outside world. Are you sure you are comfortable sharing information with Google that you do not want to share with others?
Pictures and Video’s: Picasa
Do you use Google+ on your smartphone or tablet? Then Google will register your location. Of course this is to offer you better services. But according to their own policy they can do whatever they want with this information. Your location is added to messages you post to Google+. You can remove that if you like and it is only shared with your friends on Google+ and not public. Google does of course consider itself your friend…
Sharing with third parties
Statistics that Google+ collects can be shared with the public and advertisers. And Google warns you that any and all content that you share can be reshared by its recipient. So even if you think you blocked access to information, it can still be made available by others. Whenever you click a +1-button that information is also shared.
Google may collect a lot of data. Basically about everything you do. What you share, what others share about you and what Google can find about you. In part you can determine what is made public and therefore easy to find by others. You can block access and links by untagging yourself in pictures, manage your information and remove it. But Google saves everything in their backup system. And no one knows for how long and when, how or why they may access it. It’s hard to escape Google, mainly because of Google advertisements and Google Analytics. Google will track you and collect information about you anyway. But the less you use their services, they more difficult it will get for them.
Worries and the Future
Privacy of others: an example
Information you wish you had not seen
Daphne Channa Horn a.k.a. @ikbendaf, one of three Google Glass explorers in the Netherlands was wearing her Google Glass one evening at home. Her friend was traveling by plane and would come visit her the next day. As Daphne sat in her living room, minding her own business, the prism of her Google Glass started to display information: her flight number, the exact time and place of her arrival at the airport, and so on. Information that Daphne did not have up until then. They weren’t even friends on Google+. Sure, they had e-mailed each other…
This may not be that bad, but what is next? Do you want to know if an e-mail contact of yours is transported to the hospital for an MRI or chemo therapy? What is still acceptable and what is not?
Filtering or Hacking?
Information that had not been shared becoming available. That does make one worry a little. Sure, we know Google probably has all that information. Heck, I would guess Google (and the US for that matter) knows more about me than I do about myself. But sharing this information with others without my permission or even notifying me, that might be crossing the line. It is of course entirely possible that this was a glitch of the system and this information should never have been shown. And because Google Glass is still in beta testing this will be fixed. But that is besides the point. The point is that Google has all this information! And they even use older encryption technology and not the newest available. If we have to trust Google properly filtering and an old encryption technology to protect all that information about us it is probably just a matter of when – and not if – someone will come along that hacks the system and gains access to complete profiles about us.
And thus, using Google Glass is not only an action that may affect your privacy, but also that of others around you.
Easy recording of pictures and video introduces potential problems with regard to portrait law.
Taking pictures in public is usually not a big issue. Surveillance camera’s need to be announced, but taking pictures with a camera or phone tends to be fine. Publishing this pictures may be an entirely different story. For example because someone was entitled to feeling private in a certain location, the pictures are accompanied by false statements of fact or the images are used for promotional activities, thereby suggesting that consent for its use has been given.
Another potential problem lies in the secretive taking of pictures. Whenever a person willfully takes pictures in a home or non-public place without clear warning beforehand, he is guilty of secretive photographing. Guilty, because it is a felony. The same goes for the possession of secretively made pictures. So how does Google Glass deal with that? After all, it is a camera too. And you cannot see whether Google Glass is recording. And there is no warning. Unless you are wearing a T-shirt or cap saying: “I wear a Google Glass and take pictures!” It is true you can see when Google Glass is turned on, but that does not mean it is recording. It could also be used for another purpose like looking up train departure times.
And what if Google can record while the device is turned off? De pictures would not be taken willfully. That is, by the user. Of course they are willfully made by Google. In its terms and conditions for developers Google tells developers they are not allowed to create applications that do this. But they remain silent on whether they reserve themselves the right to do it. And, apparently, it is entirely possible to take pictures and recordings while the device is turned off. Why else would Google prohibit doing so in its terms and conditions for developers?
Let’s hope those pictures are not saved on your Google Glass. Or else you would potentially be in the possession of secretively taken recordings.
Google Glass and the Future
Google Glass can do some great things. It isn’t even fully developed. Imagine all the possibilities! Yes, Google Glass might be great in sense of technology, but all the information Google will get with and from it: it’s scary. And a privacy concern.
Google says that it does not implement facial recognition. For now. App developers are also not allowed to use that kind of technology. For now. But that does not mean they can not do it. And to me it sounds like they plan on implementing facial recognition in the future. Sure, Google says that it is important to protect privacy, but at the same time they say they expect a social code of conduct when the device will be used by more and more people. In short: Google does not take care of this issue. It expects society to sort it out.
Google recently acquired a patent on eye-tracking technology that may be used in Google Glass. This will help them increase the revenue of advertisements, because it will be possible to measure how long you look at an advertisement and how your response to it is. There is already talk about a new cost-model for advertisements: the ‘pay-per-gaze’.