The Article 29 Working Party has published a letter written to Google’s CEO, Larry Page, from members of the Article 29 Working Party and other individuals holding key offices relating to data protection and privacy (the “Letter”).

Google Glass is a wearable computer which takes the form of glasses, and is able to collect various information including audio, video and geo-location data. The glasses are currently in beta-format, though serious concerns about privacy have already been raised and the issue has received a significant amount of media attention.

The Letter states that Google has failed to engage in ‘real dialogue’ with data protection authorities, and that most of the information obtained so far has been speculative and from the media. Consequently, Google has been asked to explain:

  • How it will comply with data protection laws?
  • What privacy safeguards are in place?
  • What information will be collected and what will be shared with third parties?
  • How will Google use the data collected by the glasses?
  • What is Google doing about the wider social and ethical issues raised by the glasses?
  • Has a privacy risk assessment been undertaken and what were the results?
  • Will Google demonstrate the device to, and allowing testing by, interested data protection authorities?

Google Glass was reportedly provided to developers in February 2013 and, although the date of general release to the public is yet to be confirmed, it would appear that the product will be ready for release by late 2013 / early 2014. Few other details are confirmed, although a price tag of US$1500 has been suggested.

WAB Comment:

Google has had a somewhat strained relationship with the EU’s data protection authorities, and the company also faces action from such data protection authorities (including in the UK) over its internet privacy policy and the incidental collection of personal data during mapping for its StreetView service. The extent to which it will address concerns over the Google Glass remains to be seen; however, increasing public and regulatory pressure in relation to privacy concerns, and the prospect of significantly greater sanctions under proposed EU data protection reforms may well inform its response.