Google's empty "ban" on Glass facial recognition software

The Internet giant symbolically refuses to permit such software, which can be uploaded anyway

Published June 3, 2013 5:27PM (EDT)

In a nod towards toward privacy concerns, Google has announced that it will not allow apps with facial recognition software to be uploaded to Google Glass headsets. Experts have already pointed out that there is little substance in Google's gesture, as it is possible to load apps onto the wearable system without needing Google's permission.

The Guardian reported:

 "A 'ban' is purely symbolic," commented Martin Macdonald, a marketing director for Expedia EAN who has tried Google Glass.

The developers behind Lambda Labs, which offers a paid-for facial recognition service, tweeted: "Don't worry, we think it's a core feature. Google will allow it or be replaced with something that does."

Being able to recognise faces has looked to a number of observers like an ideal application for Glass, because the device can "see" what the user is looking at, and display data such as a name in a small screen at the top right of the visual field which is invisible to outside observers. That, in turn, would drive demand for such apps.

Google though suggests that it stands as an intermediary between any online services and the display output on Glass, according to itsdeveloper overview, which says in part: "Google handles all of the necessary details of syncing between your Glassware and your users' Glass."

The result could be a cat-and-mouse game between Google and facial recognition providers.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Apps Facial Recognition Google Google Glass Privacy Software