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Google Glass worries lawmakers, casino operators

New wearable computers are drawing concerns from some about policy and privacy issues. Others say such worries stem primarily from a fear of change. Discussions continue about the appropriate place for such technology in varied social situations.

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"I don't think we should go into the conversation assuming that Glass is bad," he said.

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Indeed, previous technology innovations such as mobile phones and wireless headsets that initially raised concerns are now subject to tacit rules of etiquette, such as not talking loudly on the bus and turning a ringer off in a meeting.

Still, some have decided to leave nothing to chance.

Casino operator Caesar's Entertainment recently announced that Glass is not permitted while gambling or when in showrooms, though guests can wear it in other areas. In March, Seattle's Five Point Cafe made headlines for becoming the first bar to ban Glass. "Respect our customers privacy as we'd expect them to respect yours," says a statement on the café's website.

The California Highway Patrol says there is no law that explicitly forbids a driver from wearing Glass while driving in the state. But according to Officer Elon Steers, if a driver appears to be distracted as a result of the device, an officer can take enforcement action.

Privacy track record 

Lawmakers are beginning to consider Glass.

On Thursday, eight members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to Google Chief Executive Larry Page, asking for details about how Glass handles various privacy issues, including whether it is capable of facial recognition.

According to Google, there are no facial recognition technologies built into the device and it has no plans to do so "unless we have strong privacy protections in place."

During one of this week's conference sessions - an open discussion about Glass - members of the Glass team answered a question about privacy by noting that social implications and etiquette have been a big area of focus during the development of the product, which is still a test version.

Some of the Glass-phobia may stem from Google's own track record on privacy. In 2010, Google revealed that its fleet of Street View cars, which criss-cross the globe taking panoramic photos for the Google Maps product, also had captured personal information such as emails and web pages that were transmitted over unencrypted home wireless networks.

"The fact that it's Google offering the service, as opposed to say Brookstone, raises privacy issues," said Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a non-profit privacy advocacy group, citing Google's history and its scale in Internet advertising.

Rotenberg says his main concern centers on the stream of data collected by the devices - everything from audio and video to a user's location data - going to Google's data centers.

Ryan Calo, a University of Washington law professor who specializes in privacy and technology, said Glass is not very different from other technologies available today, whether it is a smartphone or "spy" pens that secretly record audio. But Glass is on people's faces, so it feels different.

"The face is a really intimate place and to have a piece of technology on it is unsettling," Calo said. "Much as a drone is unsettling because we have some ideas of war."

For all the hand-wringing, some early adopters are sold.

Ryan Warner, who recently graduated from college and who has developed a recipe app for Glass with Evans, said he was surprised by the reaction he got when he went to a bar.

"I was like, 'I don't know if I should have it on or not.' I was kind of in that phase," he said, "and the bouncer was like, 'Oh, my god, is that Google Glass?' He was excited."

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