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?


5 thoughts on “Google Glass – An Invasion of Privacy?”

  1. Another “Pandora’s Box” opened?

    However well intended the invention and development of this item, inevitably there will be “Glassholes” out there who will abuse its powers.

  2. They will probably go the way of those lava lamps of the ’70’s..
    Ooops..Hang on, I’ve still got one of those!
    Oh well.
    Good article, Jim.

  3. One could argue that the most intrusive gadget of the 21st century is the mobile phone.
    I often wonder about the fine line between invasion of privacy and just downright annoying.

  4. You can argue all you want however it will lead down to this. If that location is a public place then those “patrons” butts need to be in jail with all the others who have assaulted another human being. Or will we as Americans blame the glasses like we do the guns, the drugs, the alcohol, our parents, the system and everything else except the real culprit……gulp…….ourselves. If they were afraid of being recorded in a public place then maybe they should not have been there in the first place. Regardless of reason, they assaulted the woman, end of story.

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