Monday, July 29, 2013

Calm Down. I'm Not Going To Invade Your Privacy With Google Glass.

I've been reading a lot of concerns lately about Google Glass and privacy. While I always try to be respectful of the concerns others have, I really think a lot of unnecessary hoopla is being raised about Google Glass. I may offend you when I say this, but here it goes: I really don't want to film you as you go on about your everyday life. I don't care to take a picture of you or capture any conversations you may be having in public. BUT, if I did, I wouldn't need Google Glass to do it.

There, I said it. Filming unsuspecting people is as old as the moving picture. We're all probably on someone's vacation tapes as we strolled through Disney World or frolicked in the waves while on vacation at the shore. I have videos of other people's kids who happen to be riding the same merry-go-round as one of my kids. I'm sure my kids are in stranger's home movies as well in the same fashion. That's life. Cameras aren't illegal. What happened with cameras is that they've become smaller, more portable, more convenient, and less obvious. I am sure most of you reading this have a smartphone. You've probably taken a photo of yourself and your friends in a crowd. Did you ask every person in the background if it was okay that they were in your shot? Probably not. Yet, to some, since I wear Glass, I am in a different league. Some see me as an intruder and suspicious.

Those of us who have Google Glass have our own intentions. Mine happens to be filming my kids and the cute things they say and do. Some have much bigger ideas that aspire to capture things that appeal to the masses more than my three kids. And yes, some have ideas that may invade your privacy. You can't assume that everyone with Google Glass is a pervert or is on the government's payroll to spy on you. In fact, this small percentage of people with ill intentions aren't going to their first rodeo with Glass. They've been at it for a while. First it was probably with a disposable camera, then with a grainy first-generation camera phone, and now with iPhones, iPads and yes, Google Glass.

To be quite honest, when you're recording with Glass, it's pretty obvious. If you don't hear me say, "Ok, Glass. Record a video", you'll see me doing this just before I start recording you:

And, you will see the white light reflected in the prism. I say, "me", because I am writing this. What we will refer to those who would actually do this to you is a "Glasshole". Day or night, it's obvious when Glass is recording a video. If you suspect someone is filming you specifically, ask them, just as you would if you see someone with their cell phone in a suspicious position. Better yet, ask them to show you what we call a "Screencast", a mirror image of what we see through Glass live on the cell phone we're tethering with. Ask them to scroll through their feed.  If you see yourself in the feed, on a video or photo with you as the main subject, you've encountered a Glasshole, and punches are fair game. 

There are many websites that offer very clever recording devices straight out of a James Bond movie. There's a camera that looks like a ballpoint pen. There's a camera that looks like a button you pin on your jacket. In other words, to the hard-core creepers, wearing Glass on your face is too obvious. If I wanted to spy on people or secretly record them, I'm going all out and buying some secret agent man watch or something. 

Sure, there are places where Glass shouldn't be worn. Dressing rooms, hospitals, movie theaters, and doctor's offices are just a few examples. This is a common sense thing. The same rules apply when choosing when to whip out your phone and record a video. Personally, I wouldn't wear Glass when I am at dinner or in a situation that would divert my attention from who I am with. You see people doing this all the time with their phones, though. You can see a table of five at a restaurant and nobody's talking. They're texting or trying to beat level 175 on Candy Crush. Glass will be no different once it goes mainstream. It may even be common to see people walking around with Glass on. In a year's time, this may not even be anything worth talking about.  

As far as the NSA concerns go, do you not think that there are hidden camera on the streets and elsewhere that capture far more than you'd care to know about? The very device you surf the internet with is far more subject to being spied upon than my Google Glass. Privacy concerns reach way beyond Glass to me. I understand the concern. They're new, they're "in your face", and they're different.

Essentially, all I am saying is, chill out. There's always a bad seed. There's always exceptions to the rule. They're everywhere. They're wearing Glass. They don't own Glass. They're carrying smartphones. They carry old phones. People will always find a way to invade your privacy if they want to. One thing you don't have to worry about it Google Glass owners getting an upskirt photo of you. Can you imagine? 


  1. Well written piece that I agree with 100%. My experience with Glass is exactly the same. What folks don't realize is that you must be looking at your subject to take a picture. Just as most people won't stare at you,they won't stare at you while wearing Glass.

    I think the privacy issue is a little over hyped.

    1. Thanks for the response, Doug! I guess it's easy for us with Glass to brush off privacy concerns since we know how the device works.

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  3. Good read,
    The only part I disagree with is the advice on asking to see people's devices to prove they're not creeping.
    I for one am not going to just hand over my $500 phone or my (what might be $1500) pair of glass because someone is paranoid. That shouldn't make me "up to no good" just because I don't want to hand my stuff over to someone who is obviously confrontational.

    1. It's perfectly easy to turn on screencast and show them without handing over the phone.

      And I agree with this post. I've had so many people ask "are you recording me?" and I've politely said no. But if they got obnoxious about it, I would ask them "why do you think I would waste my batteries to record *you*?"

  4. I believe that the vast majority of people who cite privacy concerns aren't worried about you, a private citizen, recording them. The greatest concern that the majority of us state is that government agencies and law enforcement adopting this technology, because despite google saying they will block all facial recognition apps, on of the "Explorers" claims he has already found a workaround to get them to work via a custom firmware he designed, another has said he is working on a method of discretely taking a photo by doing nothing but blinking. I'm simply not sure that in light of recent events we are prepared for such technology, both legally and as a society. Call us paranoid but in this day and age I can safely fay that we have every reason to be.