Google announced late Friday that it will outlaw facial recognition and other biometric identification apps on Glass, its networked eyewear still in prototype phase that's expected to be commercially released later this year.
“As Google has said for several years, we won’t add facial recognition features to our products without having strong privacy protections in place,” Google’s Project Glass team said in on its Google Plus page.
Google may have publicly said this, however until now its developer policy did not explicitly rule out apps that can do facial recognition.
The policy document now reads: “Don't use the camera or microphone to cross-reference and immediately present personal information identifying anyone other than the user, including use cases such as facial recognition and voice print. Applications that do this will not be approved at this time.”
It also demands that apps that use the camera for video or photo do not disable the display in order to prevent surreptitious filming.
The new rule against facial recognition apps is a possible response to San Francisco startup Lambda Labs, which planned to release a Glass version of its API for facial recognition last week. In a recent interview with TechCrunch, co-founder Stephen Balaban acknowledged the risk of Google changing its terms of service to prevent apps built on the API.
The planned launch of the API came as eight members of Congress addressed a letter to Google CEO Larry Page demanding answers to privacy questions concerning Glass, including whether and how non-Glass wearers could opt-out of data being collected from Glass facial recognition apps.
Google has also funded research into the use of Glass for non-biometric recognition in the form of InSight, which was exploring how to use a person’s clothing to create a temporary fingerprint.