Security and Privacy Issues With Google Glass

Security and Privacy Issues With Google Glass
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There is already an incident of a hack that allowed someone to eavesdrop on communications. Will future updates end some of these security concerns and make the product more usable for the general public?


Google Glass is Google’s foray into wearable computing. Designed as a pair of eyeglasses (minus the lenses), Glass is able to project a small image in front of your right eye. Apps are built into the device to allow you to take pictures, record video and sounds and perform various tasks such as navigation. Although Glass is not the first wearable computer available, it is probably the most well-known due to Google’s involvement.

With the buzz around Google Glass mostly focusing on privacy concerns, others have begun to raise security concerns with the wearable device.

Wearable Security?

Although Google Glass runs on Google’s Android platform, certain features are not yet available. Currently there is no provision for “locking” or securing the Glass device without use of a 3rd party application.

In response to a US Congressional Committee that deals with privacy and security concerns, Google confirmed it is looking into means to secure data on Glass. Today, if someone were to steal a Glass device, any content on the device could be viewed without restriction.

To combat this, Google does offer users the ability to remotely “wipe” the device from their Google account web page.

Turning the Tables

What about the security of people without Google Glass? What stops a Glass user from capturing private conversations or pictures? Nothing much other than Google’s insistence that the Glass device is conspicuous and people would know if others were capturing data issued by voice command or a tap of the side touchpad.

Some establishments have already discussed banning wearable computers like Glass due to privacy and potential security concerns. For example, casinos in Nevada and New Jersey have discussed banning these devices due to the potential for users to cheat.

Out of Google’s Hands

Although Google is working on means to control specific aspects of Glass when it comes to privacy and security concerns, a larger concern to me is the relatively loose control Google has over the OS. Several users have already installed custom apps that take advantage of disabled areas of the OS.

Stephen Balaban created an app called “Saving Face” that let Glass perform facial recognition. The app leverages social networks and facial recognition to automatically recognize and remember people. Google was not happy with the result and has banned any kind of facial recognition apps for Google Glass, but nothing at this point stops people from installing the app outside of Google’s store.

Google purposefully built Glass to require physical or verbal interaction with the device in order to capture audio, pictures or video. The goal with this was to make sure people around a Glass user were clued in to what a Glass user was doing. Mike DiGiovanni released “Winky” – a Glass app that lets you take pictures by simply winking your eye – a few short months after Glass was released.

Google could – and likely will - address many security concerns by adding simple locks and forcing users to make physical gestures to enable recording. What concerns me most is that without better controlling access to the OS and Apps, the controls Google implements can easily be tossed out the window.

We’re in an exciting age of technology where major breakthroughs are happening on a rapid scale. Google Glass is still quite a ways off from being a mainstream piece of equipment, but with the progress Google has made in the last year I am confident wearable computers will be a big part of our future.

Now, we just need to figure out how to secure them.