NYPD explores ‘Robocop’ potential of Google Glass

Wearable technology to be used by officers on patrol to supplement police work

New York Police Department (NYPD) has reportedly purchased several Google Glass devices to examine their potential “value in investigations”.

New York Police Department (NYPD) has reportedly purchased several Google Glass devices to examine their potential “value in investigations”.

Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 15:28

The New York Police Department (NYPD) has reportedly purchased several Google Glass devices to examine their potential “value in investigations”.

A “ranking New York City law enforcement official” told the US VentureBeat website the technology would be tested “mostly for patrol purposes”.

Amid speculation as to what uses the new devices could serve to law enforcement agencies, UCD-based cybercrime expert, Dr Ray Genoe told The Irish Times : “Squad cars would have number plate recognition set up on them so the same process could, I suppose, be applied to Google Glass for some type of facial recognition.”

Adding that use of the technology for officers patrolling the streets could lead to comparisons with “Robocop”, Mr Genoe said that the idea shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise as “there’s an unbelievable amount of law enforcement agencies developing [software] applications across Europe alone”.

Stephen Balaban, founder of San Francisco-based Lambda Labs however says that in the immediate future the NYPD may face some issues as “accurate facial and object recognition is a difficult and unsolved problem, especially if the input comes from a head mounted camera like Google Glass.”

Balaban, whose company is currently “interfacing with a few entities in the police and tactical space” regarding its Google Glass alternative - the baseball cap-mounted Lambda Hat - said that Glass applications could be employed by officers for “permanent video recording, logging, and secure broadcasting”, functions which, he says, “will be a key fixture on every officer’s uniform in the future”.

Concerns have been raised in the US that uses of the audio recording functions of Google Glass by police officers may violate the Wiretap Act, as well as the Fourth Amendment’s protection against “unreasonable searches”

Lisa Jackson, solicitor and data protection specialist with Dublin-based Leman Solicitors told The Irish Times though that were Google Glass to be used closer to home by An Garda Síochána in a “legitimate context” this “shouldn’t cause” any legal issues under current legislation.

Jackson said that while there could be potential for abuses of the technology, as has happened previously with the Pulse system, such concerns shouldn’t close off a possible technological boosts to day-to-day police work.

A statement from An Garda Síochána said there are “no plans to road test uses for Google Glass for police work at this time”.