Thursday, June 27, 2013

No Facial Recognition Apps for Google Glass

By now most everyone has heard of Google glass, the glasses that are technologically advanced enough for hands-free pictures, video recording, Google searching, and streaming. Just like with Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Droid phones, the user will be able to download applications to the device from an app store. Already available are apps that allow the user to use Twitter, Facebook, or read the New York Times hands free. What will not be available in the store, however, are any apps that use real time facial recognition technology.

Google made a decision to ban both facial recognition and voiceprint technology apps from the store earlier this month, according to the MIT Technology Review. The decision is a blow to app developers who were planning on using that technology for different purposes, such as helping medical staff pull up health records and charts simply by looking at a patient.

The Review reports that at a recent conference, developer Lance Nanek showed off a medical facial-recognition Glass app he built that could—for a set of patient faces entered into the system—allow Glass-wearing clinicians to verify someone’s identity and instantly bring up records on allergies or existing prescriptions, without ever turning to a cumbersome PC or mobile handset. In an era where patient identity is key, facial recognition could provide crucial biometric confirmation before treating a patient.

The decision to ban facial recognition apps came after concerns from some consumers, and even Congress, that such apps would impose on privacy and be a tool for “creeps.” Members of Congress wrote a letter to Google CEO Larry Page in late May to ask whether the company would prevent “unintentional” collection of data and whether it would allow facial recognition—demanding a response by June 14. The ban came after the congressional letter.

Medical staff can still use technology and facial recognition, but they cannot do so instantly. As of now, staff can snap a photograph, open an app to compare the photo against a database, and refer to the screen to see the resulting data. Any further advancements will have to wait until privacy concerns subside. 

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