Perhaps you’ve seen them already—people walking around with glasses that don’t resemble eyeglasses, with a tiny little box on one side. While they may look funny and awkward, many people are very nervous about what Google Glass means for your privacy.
As wearable technology goes, Google Glass is exciting. The idea of wearing a computer that you can tell it what to do, get the answers you need, and be able to engage with friends over social media effortlessly seems like something out of the future. With Google Glass, wearers can surf the Web and look up answers to questions, take pictures and record video and upload them to Google+ and YouTube, initiate a Hangout, and get turn-by-turn navigation directions. Initial reports from people who are testing the headgear report a surprisingly comfortable fit and smooth online experience.
But as all things Google, there are some people increasingly worried about the erosion of privacy. It’s one thing for Google Glass wearers to agree to share more of their information—where they go in the physical and virtual world and what pictures they are taking—with Google. But it’s a whole new level of privacy concerns when taking pictures and taking video may violate someone else’s privacy.
A common concern seems to be the fact that people won’t know if the wearer is surreptitiously taking pictures or filming someone. According to various reports from people who are testing the gear, it’s pretty hard to hide the fact that Google Glass is on. When Glass is on, the person standing in front of the wearer can see the screen illumination.
Not only will people be able to tell when Google Glass is on, it is pretty obvious when the wearer takes a picture, since the wearer has to say, “Okay Glass, take a picture.”
The bigger question appears to be video. Did that customer start the video before walking into the store and is everything in the store being recorded? Or perhaps the wearer is presently in a Google Hangout and all the folks also in Hangout can see whatever the wearer is seeing.
That is a creepy prospect, and a valid concern. Eric Schmidt, Google’s chairman, thinks new rules of etiquette will evolve regarding how Glass would be used. “The fact of the matter is we’ll have to develop some new social etiquette,” Schmidt told the BBC recently.
“It’s obviously not appropriate to wear these glasses in situations where recording is not correct, and indeed you have this problem already with phones,” Schmidt said.
Google has pointed out that there is nothing Google Glass does that our portable devices don’t already do; it just makes the process easier and accessible. Anyone can casually record conversations using any one of the recording apps available for iOS and Android devices. Maybe you will wind up in the background of a picture or video a wearer took without you knowing it? It doesn’t seem any different from the thousands of snapshots people are taking each day with their smartphones.
“It is still very early days for Glass, and we expect that as with other new technologies, such as cell phones, behaviors and social norms will develop over time,” a Google spokesperson said recently.
Obviously with any new technology there is the potential for misuse, and people are very focused on the possibilities. The privacy concerns should be part of the conversation, but as Lance Ulanoff, editor-in-chief of Mashable recently said, “Google Glass is not a spying tool.” The way Glass is designed, the wearer has to look somewhat up and to the right to see the screen. “If I want a spy tool, put it right in front of my eye, so I can look at the person I’m talking to, while filming someone else,” Ulanoff said.
Are you concerned with Google Glass? Tell us what you think in the comments below.