Google’s official stance on Google Glass facial recognition is that it’s not allowed, but that isn’t stopping Dubai’s police force.
According to Reuters, Dubai detectives are planning to wear Google Glass with facial recognition capabilities on board. The software, developed in-house by the police force, will let detectives match faces against a database to identify wanted suspects.
Last year, Google said it wouldn’t allow facial recognition software on its high-tech specs. “As Google has said for several years, we won’t add facial recognition features to our products without having strong privacy protections in place,” the company said in May 2013. “With that in mind, we won’t be approving any facial recognition Glassware at this time.”
But Google’s stance doesn’t preclude developers from creating their own software and sideloading it onto the device. One such app, called NameTag, would recognize people in social settings, though the developers delayed the launch in response to pressure from Senator Al Franken. Another group has created a facial recognition API that other app developers can use.
Still, this appears to be the first instance of a law enforcement agency using Glass for facial recognition in the field. While the New York Police Department is also testing Glass, it hasn’t said whether facial recognition is an intended use, and Google wasn’t involved in the program. We’ve reached out to Google to ask about any involvement with the Dubai police force.
Why this matters: Even if the intentions are good, the use of Glass should raise privacy concerns, as it’s a slippery slope from recognizing wanted criminals to identifying anyone. And while Google may try to absolve itself by not officially condoning facial recognition software, sideloading isn’t much of a barrier to work around. Dubai’s initiative shows just how easy it is to go against Google’s wishes.