Smile you’re on Glass: How Google will fuel the privacy debate


While all of the early adopters anticipate Google Glass’ imminent launch, and try to convince Google why they should each get access to a pair, one conversation has been missing. What about privacy? Sure, the Glass wearer can turn the recording and capture features on and off with voice commands, but what about everyone else in their vicinity? Knowing that someone near you is wearing the Glass device, how will we begin to (re)act? Do we all now become characters in someone’s reality show?

Author Mark Hurst (@markhurst) writes:

The real issue raised by Google Glass, which will either cause the project to fail or create certain outcomes you may not want (which I’ll describe), has to do with the lifebits. Once again, it’s an issue of experience.

The Google Glass feature that (almost) no one is talking about is the experience – not of the user, but of everyone other than the user. A tweet by David Yee introduces it well:

“There is a kid wearing Google Glasses at this restaurant which, until just now, used to be my favorite spot.”

The key experiential question of Google Glass isn’t what it’s like to wear them, it’s what it’s like to be around someone else who’s wearing them. I’ll give an easy example. Your one-on-one conversation with someone wearing Google Glass is likely to be annoying, because you’ll suspect that you don’t have their undivided attention. And you can’t comfortably ask them to take the glasses off (especially when, inevitably, the device is integrated into prescription lenses). Finally – here’s where the problems really start – you don’t know if they’re taking a video of you.

Now pretend you don’t know a single person who wears Google Glass… and take a walk outside. Anywhere you go in public – any store, any sidewalk, any bus or subway – you’re liable to be recorded: audio and video. Fifty people on the bus might be Glassless, but if a single person wearing Glass gets on, you – and all 49 other passengers – could be recorded. Not just for a temporary throwaway video buffer, like a security camera, but recorded, stored permanently, and shared to the world.

To some extent we’ve all come to accept being recorded in most places by security cameras. And the growth and spread of Youtube memes – The Harlem Shake meme is now being used to protest in Egypt – shows that more and more people are embracing the video medium whether they are doing the capturing or are the subject of it. Today, individuals still have to make a bit of an effort to capture an experience, but tomorrow, with stylish  Warby Parker frames embedded with the Google Glass technology, barriers to unwanted surveillence are all but gone. And once that becomes more of a reality, privacy advocates will raise the red flag higher and governemtns will have to move quickly to set laws in place. Once again personal technology advancements are rocking the privacy boat and will certainly spawn brand new cultural bevahiors.

What do you think? Is the privacy fear warranted?