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Italian regulator questions Facebook over new smart glasses

Privacy and data concerns.

According to the Italian data protection authority, it has asked Facebook for explanations regarding its recently introduced smart glasses known as Ray-Ban Stories, in order to determine if the product complies with privacy regulations.

Garante, an Italian watchdog, said on Friday that it had requested clarifications from Facebook via the Irish data protection commissioner, who oversees the social media corporation because its European headquarters are in Ireland.

In collaboration with Ray-Ban maker EssilorLuxottica, Facebook unveiled its first smart glasses on Thursday.

The company had previously said it would not access the media used by its smart-glasses clients without their permission, following the backlash against its handling of user data in the past. Facebook also said that the firm would not personalize advertising based on the content of images or videos taken with the glasses.

However, Facebook is being questioned about the safeguards it has put in place to protect individuals whose videos are often taken in public, in particular children, and about how data is anonymized as well the features of the voice assistant behind the glasses.

In a statement, a Facebook representative said:

“We know people have questions about new technologies, so before the launch of Ray-Ban Stories, we engaged with the Irish DPC to share how we’ve built privacy into the product design and functionality of the glasses to give both device owners and people around them peace of mind. We’ll answer questions from Garante through the Irish DPC and we look forward to our continued collaboration with regulators in Europe.”

Users of the glasses can choose from a variety of features included in the glasses, including listening to music, making telephone calls, taking images, and recording short videos that can then be shared across Facebook’s services. It has been announced that Ray-Ban Stories will become available for $299.

The new product has been launched as part of Mark Zuckerberg’s aim for Facebook to become a “metaverse,” a proposed idea where people will use digital avatars and virtual reality to interact.

In novels, such as Snow Crash, the term “metaverse” refers to immersive digital worlds accessed across a number of platforms, where the physical and digital interact.

According to Zuckerberg, the metaverse is an “embodied internet.” He earlier stated that AR glasses are the “Holy Grail” of “delivering a sense of presence while not taking you away from the physical world.”

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