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Google Glass already has some lawmakers on high alert

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Federal lawmakers are watching the product's development closely to scrutinize how far the device might push privacy boundaries, especially if it integrates components like digital facial recognition.

“A lot of people are excited about Glass, but I don't think people are excited about a situation where a stranger can identify them, by name, by simply looking at them on the street,” Sen. Al Franken (D) of Minnesota said in an e-mailed statement to Adweek last month.

“Google made a principled decision to make facial recognition an opt-in feature for its social network, Google+. So far, they have not built facial recognition technology into Google Glass. I think this shows a real thoughtfulness on Google's part, and I hope the company continues to think about the privacy issues raised by Glass in this way,” he said.

Electronic surveillance laws, both on the federal and state levels, were first established to protect telephone wiretapping and later extended to cover data technologies, particularly mobile phones. But data from the National Conference of State Legislatures in Washington show that the scope of those laws differ by state, such as whether or not it will expand to include mobile devices, if it covers video or audio or both, and how many, if any, people being recorded need to provide their consent.

Then there is Vermont, which to date has no law on its books addressing surveillance, although the state Supreme Court has established that residents in the state have the expectation of privacy in their homes.

Benjamin Wright, a Dallas attorney who specializes on cyber-technology issues, says the speed in which the digital realm moves will make it impossible to regulate.

“We’re living in the Buck Rogers age and have all this science fiction technology politicians didn’t comprehend when they wrote a number of these laws,” Mr. Wright says.

The burden should be on Google and other companies to set limits or safeguards involving its use. “These problems are ubiquitous in our society and the answers emerge slowly. You end up with this tremendous field of gray in front of you when you try to ask what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says.

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