Google Glass business use must comply with data protection rules, warns ICO

Google Glass use will be subject to privacy rules over surveillance and data collection

The UK’s privacy watchdog has warned that business use of Google Glass will fall under the Data Protection Act, following the launch of the smart eyewear in the UK last week.

In a blog post, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) looks at challenges of wearable technology, and suggests what to expect when it becomes common place.

“Not so long ago, the collection of personal information by body worn devices was limited to trials in specific police forces, and others that could afford the specialist equipment,” said Andrew Paterson, senior technology officer at the ICO.

“However, recent progress in hardware means that wearable technology may well become as common as mobile phones, as more and more technology companies start bringing out new devices that use personal information to make your life that little bit easier.”

The ICO found that Glass and other wearables have personal uses, for storing data for example, but warned that if this data goes to third parties for further analysis then it may be covered by data protection rules. 

One concern is the recording feature, which some may view as surveillance, or snooping. 

“There is an important debate to be had around the privacy implications of wearable technology and it will ultimately be for society to decide how comfortable they are with wearables,” Paterson said.

“However like any new technology, wearables must operate in compliance with the law. In the UK, this means making sure that these devices operate in line with the requirements of the UK Data Protection Act.”

Individual users could wear the technology and use it without breaching the Act, he added, but an organisation that uses it for business purposes would have to let the ICO know.

“The rise of wearable technology brings exciting new possibilities and is set to become widespread in the years ahead,” Paterson concluded. “But organisations must not lose sight of the fact that wearables must still operate in compliance with the law and consumers’ personal information must be looked after.”

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