Google Replacing 'Bricked' Glass Wearables After Bum Software Update

Google is sending new Glass devices to users who experienced problems with a recent software update. But the company isn't providing a way to wipe personal data, and that's a big privacy concern, according to CIO.com's Al Sacco.

(Update: I just checked Google's Glass Shop for Explorers, and it looks like every model of Glass is now sold out. That could explain why it's taking Google so long to send out replacement devices to those affected by the XE16 problems.) 

Last week Google stopped rolling out its latest Glass software update, called XE16, after the download accidentally "bricked" some Glass "Explorers'" device, sending the wearables into a never-ending reboot cycle.

I happen to be one of the lucky Explorers affected by the problem with XE16, and my device has been a $1500 paperweight for the past week, albeit a interesting-looking one.

Google Glass XE16 software screen

Google says it resolved the software issue and according to Glass team member Sarah P, who's been providing updates about the situation on the Glass Community Forum, "all Explorers should be able to update to XE 16.11."

Unfortunately, that's not the reality, and Google is reaching out to affected Explorers, asking them to return their Glass units, which will be replaced with brand new devices.

Here's the message I received from Google last Thursday:

"Hi Al,

"You may have noticed that our most recent Glass software update didn’t go quite as planned - and your device seems to have been affected. We’d like to get a new device in your hands as quickly as possible, and are happy to swap your Glass for a brand new one at no cost.

"Details:

  • We’ll swap your device at no cost to you
  • You’ll receive a new Glass, and a box with postage to return your original device
  • Want to mix things up? Let us know if you’d like your replacement in a different color
  • Choose your favorite Glass accessory to accompany your new device - it’s on us :)

"To get things started, just reply directly to us with the following information:

  • Confirm your name and the email address you used to purchase Glass
  • Confirm your most updated shipping address (this is where we’ll send your new device)
  • Confirm your color choice
  • Let us know which Glass accessory you’d like

"We hope to get your replacement processed within a day of hearing back from you. Your new Glass should arrive shortly thereafter (we’re big fans of express shipping). Our engineers eagerly await learning from your original device, so please be sure to return it in the box we provide.

"Thanks for helping us shape the future of Glass - we’re glad you’re with us.

"Questions? Just let us know.

"Cheers,

"The Glass Team"

I responded right away with all of the requested information. Frankly, I'm not comfortable sending my Glass device back to Google without being sure that all of my personal information, including email and other messages, images, video, and other app data has been wiped clean. So I asked via email if there is a way to ensure that my personal data is wiped before I return my Glass.

I also reached out to Google PR on Friday morning for details on the situation.

I never heard back for the Glass team or Google PR. So I called Glass support this morning to see what was going on. "Michael S." from the Glass team told me that 1) it will be at least a few days before my replacement device is sent due to a backup processing the orders for replacement devices; and 2) that there is nothing I can do about the data on my device because I can't currently turn it on to initiate a factory reset.

Michael — who, by the way, said he doesn't feel comfortable sharing his last name over the phone — told me not to worry, because "we do everything we can to protect our Explorers' security and privacy."

Michael seemed like a nice enough guy, but I'm not convinced.

From what I can tell, the XE16 problem only affected a subset of Glass Explorers, and though he couldn't tell me an exact percentage, Michael said it was a relatively small amount. Again, I asked Google PR for specifics last week but didn't receive a response.

As for a reason for the reboot loop, Michael said it was "an update that had just gone wrong, some kind of bug." He did not know why some Explorers were able to update to XE16 without issues.

Problems with software updates are common, and companies make mistakes. Even Google. Honestly, I haven't really been using Glass very often, so it's not much of inconvenience for me to wait for a new device.  However, it is unfortunate not to be able to use the device when I want to, especially because it was so expensive. The inability to wipe my device, and Google's nonchalant handling of the situation and its privacy implications rub me the wrong way. I don't plan to return my bricked Glass until I get a more satisfactory resolution.

AS

Image via GlassAppSource.com

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