Google Glass – An Invasion of Privacy?

For those who may be unaware; Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head mounted display. As the name suggests, worn just like a pair of glasses…

Google Glass 3

Google Glass is still very much in the development stage so has not yet been made available for mass distribution. However, Google has distributed several thousand prototypes, which include the ability to record videos, take photos, chat, get directions, look up facts on the Web, and more, via its invitation only “Glass Explorer Program”.

According to a recent CBS news report, tech writer Sarah Slocum got her hands on a pair of Google Glasses and decided to wear them during an evening out at a local rock bar… the result, mayhem! Apparently, a group of patrons, including two women and a man, recognized the device and took umbrage at the possibility of being recorded, abusing Ms. Slocum and ultimately tearing the device from her face. Ms. Slocum related the incident on her Facebook Page thus:

OMG so you’ll never believe this but… I got verbally and physically assaulted and robbed last night in the city, had things thrown at me because of some ******* Google Glass haters, then some ****** tore them off my face and ran out with them then and when I ran out after him his ******* friends stole my purse, cellphone walet [sic] and everything.

Google Glass 2

Reading the tale of Ms. Slocum’s adventure got me to thinking, just how much of an invasion of privacy does this type of technology present? Apparently, Google is well aware of the anti-social possibilities and has already published a list of Do’s and Don’ts, even going so far as to label those who abuse the protocol as “Glassholes”.

[Don’t] Be creepy or rude (aka, a “Glasshole”). Respect others and if they have questions about Glass don’t get snappy. Be polite and explain what Glass does and remember, a quick demo can go a long way. In places where cell phone cameras aren’t allowed, the same rules will apply to Glass. If you’re asked to turn your phone off, turn Glass off as well. Breaking the rules or being rude will not get businesses excited about Glass and will ruin it for other Explorers.

I guess the cynics among us (myself included) could easily view Google’s behavioral guide as a feeble attempt to appease the anti-Google Glass element and privacy advocates. Does Google actually believe its Glass users will follow the dictates just because Google says so? No? Neither do I.

Google Glass 1I would never condone violence but I must admit to having some degree of empathy for the patrons of the bar in question. Was Ms. Slocum’s behavior naive, or irresponsible perhaps? I don’t think there is too much doubt about that. Whether or not the patrons’ reactions fitted the crime, that’s another matter altogether.

The incident does, however, raise some serious questions over these types of wearable devices and associated privacy concerns. There are already numerous portable devices available which are capable of surreptitious recording, smartphones for one… my question is this; while I’m sure we can all admire the inherent technology, does something like Google Glass maybe take the potential for invasion of privacy just that step too far?


About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

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