Google Glass, Privacy Concerns, and Reseller Liability

The nearly undetectable way in which Google Glass can take photos or stream videos has raised concerns about privacy intrusion, unwanted Internet posting, and industrial espionage. By Ellen Muraskin

Google hasn’t yet released Google Glass from beta, and the device’s functionality is limited. Nevertheless, it’s not hard to spy the sweet spot of Glass’ application development for the workplace—and possible reseller opportunity. The wearable computer’s true advance over the equally mobile (and far more app-rich) smartphone is its ability to operate in hands-free mode.

This has led to a spate of development for occupations in which both hands are typically occupied. For example, emergency medical responders wearing Google Glass can stream their triage examinations to trauma specialists. Chefs in the kitchen can call forth recipes. Field technicians can show remote experts what they see or consult manuals in the cloud. But the nearly undetectable way in which those wearing Google Glass can take photos or stream videos has raised concerns about privacy intrusion, unwanted Internet posting, and industrial espionage.

Google Glass: Tagging Faces in Real Life?
Concern has also grown around the potential abuse of facial recognition. Although Google has banned such apps from its Glassware store until further notice, they’ve already been built for “sideloading” by third parties, and the recognition technology has gotten scarily accurate: Facebook recently made headlines by besting humans in achieving a 97.25 percent score in identifying faces in photographs out of 4,000 possible IDs. In a benign if somewhat sleazy scenario, salespeople could pretend to recognize their prospects while Glass retrieves their Facebook profiles. A darker scenario is not hard to imagine.

According to Bradley Gross, managing partner at the Law Office of Bradley Gross, P.A., in Weston, Fla., which specializes in technology clients, a reseller is within his or her rights to install a third-party, unsupported or unauthorized app, including one that incorporates face recognition. While that might void a Google warranty, it doesn’t expose the reseller to liability. What does, according to Gross, is breaking through Google Glass encryption, say, or somehow circumventing a security feature. In that case, should the customer be using the device in an illegal activity, a reseller might be found to be aiding and abetting.

When advising clients about their security liabilities with regard to Glass, says Gross, “there’s precedent.” Resellers should apply a good working knowledge of the current state of mobile device management (MDM) and policy. An MDM company is sure to program for Glass, an Android device, the same kind of management client that controls how and where smartphones can be used.

While it may be premature to advise on Glass apps specifically, Gross says, “If you don’t have a technology and a policy in place now to manage mobile device use in the workplace, you are many years behind. It will be up to the reseller, in conjunction with the manufacturer of these devices, to persuade customers that privacy concerns are either not as insurmountable as they appear to be, or can be managed.”

And if smartphones are any guide, simply banning their use is futile. “Better to allow and manage than ban and have a false sense of security that your ban is being implemented,” cautions Gross.

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