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13 Oct, 2021 10:05

Facebook’s new ‘smart glasses’ could be American spying tool, Russian security agency says, warning of potential ban in country

Facebook’s new ‘smart glasses’ could be American spying tool, Russian security agency says, warning of potential ban in country

Russia’s top domestic security agency, the FSB, has aired a series of concerns about Facebook’s flagship wearable tech device, saying the camera-equipped glasses designed in partnership with Ray-Ban could be used for espionage.

In a statement published on Monday, officials said that the American-designed ‘smart glasses’ “have design features that mean they can be classified as a special tool intended for secretly obtaining information.” The decision opens the door to a potential ban not only on their sale, but on their use in the country.

Facebook describes the spectacles as “an authentic way to capture photos and video, share your adventures, and listen to music or take phone calls — so you can stay present with friends, family, and the world around you.” Known as ‘Ray-Ban Stories’, they allow users to start recording using just verbal commands, and retail from around $400 a pair.


Russia is not the only nation to cite privacy concerns about the product, with Ireland’s Data Protection Commission querying whether an LED indicator light mounted on the frame is sufficient to warn unsuspecting people that they are being recorded. Dublin is home to Facebook’s European headquarters, making the country’s regulator a key stakeholder in the US tech giant’s operations.

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While camera phones can be used to record people, their use is generally noticeable, Irish officials said. However, “with the glasses, there is a very small indicator light that comes on when recording is occurring. It has not been demonstrated… that comprehensive testing in the field was done by Facebook or Ray-Ban to ensure the indicator LED light is an effective means of giving notice.”

Facebook insists that new technology will always spark such concerns, and that it is committed to working with regulators to iron out any potential issues. However, with the glasses having already been launched and made available for sale, it is unclear whether any changes to their design would be contemplated.

The row is the latest in a series of showdowns between Russia and the American social media company. Just last month, Moscow’s digital media regulator, Roskomnadzor, warned that the firm could face millions of dollars in fines for failing to delete banned content that authorities say includes child pornography, content glamorizing drug use, and purported extremist content.

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