Google Glass is In Your Face, and Stealing Your Privacy

Google Glass is a “digital goggle” that lets you take photos and videos, make phone calls, send and receive text messages, search the Internet and even get turn-by-turn directions as you walk down the street—all from a device that sits on your face like a pair of lens-free eyeglasses.

This James Bond-like device is part of the new wave of “wearable tech” spurred by the ubiquitous desire to have technology available to us wherever and whenever we choose. You only need stand at the corner of Dolores and 18th Streets in San Francisco (a bus stop for the employee shuttle to Google HQ) to see the future—a long line of 20-somethings all wearing the communication and recording device as they chat about their favorite coffee roaster and the movie they saw last night.

And while it takes mere moments to get used to wearing the device, society is having a harder time adjusting to the notion that anyone wearing Google Glass can film or photograph surreptitiously and without other’s permission.

Movie theatres, strip clubs, casinos and bars are becoming concerned with privacy and copyright issues created by the ability to record people and events without notice. But what of it? Most of us carry a smartphone in our hands that can do the same thing. And, my experience is that it’s pretty obvious when someone is taking pictures or recording a video on Glass.

Still, the negative reaction to Glass is to be expected. It is tough to accept change. When cellphones began to gain popularity, society needed to adjust to the etiquette and protocols of how to most politely use phones in public—rules were driven by public ridicule, not by banning cellphones. And theatres needed to abandon their “no cameras allowed in the theatre” rules once everyone had a recording device in their smartphone.

As for Google Glass, movie theatres, strip clubs, casinos and bars will need to rely on polite society to govern privacy breaches, and will need to adapt to the rapidly advancing digital age. And we will need to continually adjust to the notion that if we are in a public place that our expectations of privacy are somewhat limited.

While many fear the privacy breach implications of having facial recognition software embedded in a device like Google Glass (Google currently does not permit facial recognition apps) I look forward to the day when I will be able to be prompted by wearable tech to remember the hundreds of people I’ve have met and should recognize but don't. Imagine being able to forever eliminate that thought of “I know I’ve met him before—but what’s his name?”

Of course there are all sorts of nefarious uses of facial recognition software, and making it easier to record events without obvious knowledge, but we can hardly blame Google Glass. Thieves will be thieves, and unwarranted government surveillance (another fear of the opponents of Google Glass) will happen with or without wearable tech.

See them as hipster-chic or dorky, privacy thieves or a convenience, Google Glass (and the next generation of wearable tech) is here to stay.

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