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Google bans Glass at shareholder meeting

Tech giant shows that even they worry about the privacy concerns of their new hardware

James Vincent
Monday 10 June 2013 16:49 BST
Sergey Brin, CEO and co-founder of Google, wears a Google Glass during a product demonstration during Google I/O 2012.
Sergey Brin, CEO and co-founder of Google, wears a Google Glass during a product demonstration during Google I/O 2012.

Privacy concerns regarding Google Glass have been heightened this week after the company first banned facial recognition for their hardware and then US casinos outlawed Glass over card-counting fears (that’s without even mentioning Google banning pornography on the device).

But now the one company that that you’d expect to be open-minded about the use of Glass – hint, it’s the one that’s trying to sell them to the world – has admitted that it too occasionally feels uncomfortable about the idea of always-on cameras being strapped to peoples’ faces.

At Google’s annual shareholders meeting yesterday afternoon in California attendees were banned from using any recording devices, meaning no cameras, no smartphones, and no Google Glass.

"Cameras, recording devices, and other electronic devices, such as smart phones, will not be permitted at the meeting. Photography is prohibited at the meeting," read the official instructions.

Despite the enjoyable irony of this, the news that even Google sometimes feel like saying no to Google Glass is reassuring. As the novelist and digital commentator Nick Harkaway commented on his blog:

“There’s an interesting point here: Google is acknowledging, right out of the box - in fact, before the box even ships - that there are contexts in which Glass is inappropriate. That is actually really good news.”

However, as Harkaway points out, the line between what’s acceptable to record and what’s not shouldn’t be limited just to events of “corporate confidentiality”. As Glass spreads (and it will) society as a whole will have to re-examine and re-instate the already blurred divisions between the public and the private. But at least Google are concerned too.

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