16 May 2013 - 9:49am | posted by | 7 comments

Google Glass illegal, IP lawyer warns

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Google’s landmark technology launch, Google Glass, which allows the wearer to access the internet using wearable hands-free glasses, is likely to be illegal to operate in the UK, two-time IP lawyer of the year, Phillip Hannay warns.

Glass wearers can access the internet and record and transmit what they are looking at, without any visible indicator to the public or people who are being recorded.

Writing in the London Review of Books, John Lanchester posited that the technology breaches basic data protection provisions, and Hannay agrees, adding that the recording facility is a breach of ECHR privacy laws.

“In the UK anyway, many or most of the recording functions of Google Glass seem likely to be illegal,” Lanchester says.

“The 1998 Data Protection Act defines data as ‘information which is being processed by equipment operating automatically in response to instructions; or is recorded with the intention that it should be processed.’ I don’t speak fluent lawyer, but it seems clear that definition encompasses the recording function of Glass.”

Hannay says Lanchester’s assessment is correct, but warns that if the technology is swiftly adopted and accepted, the privacy breaches may not be practically enforceable at state level.

“I would broadly agree with the article. I doubt there is little the UK will be able to do if there is sufficient first mover advantage for companies like Google, coupled with a global cultural shift to wearable technology -a shift by a generation who have a lesser concern over sharing data- and especially when Digital Britain is apparently the near to mid term plan for balancing UK GDP dependence on financial services,” he says.

“The UK will have to consider the EU line, and the EU is apparently finding it hard enough for data protection regulation to be understood and implemented.”

Hannay warns that the recording facility is potentially a breach of both Data Protection legislation and ECHR privacy standards, contrasting the Google Glass covert recording facilty with the requirement of CCTV to overtly carry a compliant accompanying notice.

“No mention was given regarding how notification will be given re recording," he says.

“No doubt Google will provide notification via a printed T-shirt meant to be worn with the Glass.”

The product is being trialled and is scheduled to be launched in the UK next year.


16 May 2013 - 10:48
Tomorrowologist's picture

Once it's available, you may as well try to ban mobile phones. I can walk around outside right now, and freely record the public going about their business. As soon as I upload that footage to Vimeo or YouTube, it's being processed. When Glass is available, whether it has to be imported from the US or bought in the UK, you're going to see it EVERYWHERE. It's going to be like iPod headphones - initially a white flash of cord was all that gave away the early adopters, but soon after release they became ubiquitous. If the law gets embroiled in Glass, I think it's more likely to be in a copyright bunfight that will erupt as the competitors start to hit the shelves...and there'll be lots of them. Samsung, Apple, they're all going to want to get a piece of this. It's a Facebook dream, if combined with facial recognition.

Anyone not preparing for this, and preparing well, is preparing to lose an awful lot of money.

16 May 2013 - 11:11
colinbancmedia's picture

"I don't speak fluent lawyer" translates as "I don't really know what I am talking about".

16 May 2013 - 14:03

Glass isn't even a product available for the general public, it's a developer preview, so stop the techno-panic.

16 May 2013 - 14:12
dunca17858's picture

Photographs are not covered by data protection. Furthermore, although the police often give you the impression that there is, there is no restriction to photographing public acts in a public place. More relevantly would you really want to associate with someone that was recording every moment around them?

6 Jun 2013 - 11:06
Tomorrowologist's picture

@dunca17858 People already are recording much of what's going on around them.

17 May 2013 - 10:34

"Glasses book me a ticket on the next train out of Waverley Station as soon as you get a bloody signal"

Or I could just pay with cash.

23 Aug 2013 - 16:52
sampa62864's picture

Cup seriously is not even a item out there for the community it can be a designer review so cease the technostress.

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