Digital Transformation

Google Glass illegal, IP lawyer warns

By Steven Raeburn | N/A

May 16, 2013 | 4 min read

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.

He'll be back

“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 latest marketing news and insights straight to your inbox.

Get the best of The Drum by choosing from a series of great email briefings, whether that’s daily news, weekly recaps or deep dives into media or creativity.

Sign up

“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.

Digital Transformation

More from Digital Transformation

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +