Fears of Google Glass Are Unfounded

We are being too quick to condemn groundbreaking technology that we don't understand and haven't yet experienced

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It was banned from beaches after people sneaked photos of female sunbathers. It was outlawed from the Washington Monument. It struck fear in the hearts of those who valued privacy.

No, I’m not talking about Google Glass. Those were reactions to the first Kodak cameras in the late 1800s.

Fast-forward to 2013 and our reaction to technology is eerily similar: this month’s release of Google Glass’ Explorer Edition came with a smattering of announcements banning it — with even a White House petition circulating to prohibit the gadget until limitations are placed on it to “prevent indecent public surveillance.”

(MORE: Google Opens Up About Glass Privacy, Zombification)

There are only about 8,000 devices going out to hand-selected applicants. With few people having ever experienced this groundbreaking technology, why are we so quick to condemn what we don’t yet understand? We need to encourage and embrace innovative technology instead of fearing every possible way it could harm us. Negative, knee-jerk reactions do nothing to foster the creativity and inventiveness that are essential for our country’s success.

Google Glass dissenters argue that the device, which can record images and video, presents a threat to privacy. But state laws have long been in place to regulate covert recordings: about a dozen explicitly forbid recording conversations without the permission of all parties, and taking pictures without consent in locations like locker rooms where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy is forbidden.

Plus, we’re already legally recorded and tracked almost everywhere we go. Have a cell phone or iPad? There’s a good chance one of your apps enabled the GPS-tracking function or that companies like Euclid Analytics have recorded your smartphone’s attempts to access a store’s wi-fi — and collected data on how much time you spent in different departments. Facial-recognition software already exists, and the average urban American is caught at least 75 times each day on security cameras just walking down the street. Times Square alone has at least 200 cameras, and people in London are recorded about 300 times every day.

(MORE: Empowering Our Digital Sixth Sense With Google Glass, Augmented Reality and Wearable Health Gadgets)

Besides, you don’t need Google Glass to surreptitiously record something or someone. Generic-looking eyewear with hidden cameras has long been available for about $300, a fraction of Google Glass’s $1,500 price tag. Micro wireless cameras sell for about $40 on eBay, and devices like pens and MP3 players can be purchased with hidden cameras. While you would never think twice about someone wearing sunglasses or carrying a pen in their pocket, Google Glass is literally in your face. You need to say, “O.K., Glass,” and “Record a video,” or move your head in certain directions to capture anything — not exactly discreet. With the flash turned off, recording with a smartphone would be less obvious.

When we don’t understand something, we often react before grasping both the positive and negative implications. Let’s give Google Glass space to breathe and develop so we can see its potential for evolving a new species of helpful apps. Some are already being developed with facial recognition — not for spying but to help hospital staff access and add to patients’ virtual charts. And several people who applied for the device already have fantastic ideas, including a firefighter who wants to use maps with the device to improve fire safety. Another Glass recipient plans to take the frames to Veteran Administration hospitals so those who served in World War II can see their memorials before they die.

The mobile revolution unchained technology from our desks and made it an integral part of our active daily experiences. We’re in the early stages of mobile hardware and apps, with new form factors like Google Glass stretching our minds to come up with iterations we could only imagine years ago. Change is inevitable. And as Helen Keller once said, “The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next.”

MORE: The Real Privacy Implications of Google Glass

44 comments
AshleyND869
AshleyND869

I just think this will be a bad idea when it comes to driving. People who text and drive are already distracted. The other day I saw on the news that a little screen pop ups while you use this. So if people are using this while they are driving to get places they will be paying attention to that little screen. People are also distracted just by walking with their cell phones and texting. There were will be distracted people walking all over the place with these things. The idea of it sounds good, but the way people are glued to theirs phones already, I can just see this being even worse.

google_well_wisher
google_well_wisher

The point to make is that Google glass shouldn't be banned. its unnecessary similar to the IPAD or Bluetooth technology - both extremely successful, however still unnecessary. Firefighters using this to see maps of buildings while fighting fires or doctors using this to browse through patient records by using the camera to recognize registered patients are good applications, however i still don't see the point in this device's mass usage/adoption. Surveillance is one area which could be a good/excellent application for the device, however a cell phone can do the same and probably will have considerably more market. The device i believe exists simply because one can see a (wide) field of view with one eye while focusing the other eye on something else (keeping your hands free), similar to the eye wear that exist on Apache helicopter helmets and statistics has shown that most Apache pilots spend a year or perfecting their vision/brain to do 2 things at one time.   

adjusterrick
adjusterrick

Just another useless piece of crap used to invade more peoples privacy for a profit. Technology...not all is good or beneficial/

VisualCaddie
VisualCaddie

Visual Caddie is the evolution of Google Glass Golf GPS technology... www.visualcaddie.com #visualcaddie @VisualCaddie 

Peter Parker-Smythe
Peter Parker-Smythe

One solution to google glass privacy intrusion: a device which emits a signal that interrupts Google Glass' ability to take photos/video. Wear that device & no-one can photograph you.

Joseph Weiland
Joseph Weiland

It's common for people to have fears over something they don't fully understand or trust. This goes for new technology as well. Personally, I find it very similar in application to how people already use smartphones. However, I also believe some things would be more rude with Google Glass than with Smartphones unless people use a social etiquette or politeness, which they should already be doing with Smartphones.

Leon Paczynski
Leon Paczynski

Not much to understand. It allows you to surreptiously video unspecting people you are talking with. Heidious.

Demi Cardinale
Demi Cardinale

Yes. Enough with the voyeurism, and that's coming from a former voyeur.

Ruth McKinnie
Ruth McKinnie

Since when is fear all bad? After all the fearful deer are often the ones who live to see another day.

Mike Aftanake
Mike Aftanake

at this day an age when it is easy to have an educated opinion, it is not "fears" we are talking about, it is a CHOICE of rejecting some technological gadgets that are too cctv, for example...

Dionte
Dionte

If i was this paranoid I'd not be worried about someone with google glass I'd worry about someone who appears to be doing nothing. Someone that's planing on getting ya got that spy equipment.

rjt
rjt

Google glasses...A solution looking for a problem.

DavidGrieshaber
DavidGrieshaber

Well that was an interesting read!   Look how successful the Kodak Camera was in the end!   We are build a Golf app for Google Glass @ http://iCaddy.com    So I hope it is widely accepted.

gaurav.kumar79
gaurav.kumar79

This is why unlike crappy blogs who are just there to sensationalize and make money, Times has an open view and is respected.

jim2
jim2

This argument smells a lot like "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." Certain genies (like the one the above quote references) can't be put back in their bottles, and letiing this or any other new technology "breathe" is basically accepting it in advance. As opposed to the freedoms we seem so eager to toss aside these days, technology will continue to avance regardless of our resistance to accepting the potential dangers that come with it, so it's only logical to proceed with caution.

jim2
jim2

This argument smells a lot like "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." Certain genies (like the one the above quote references) can't be put back in their bottles, and letting this or any other new technology "breathe" is basically accepting it in advance. There also tends to be a snowballing effect with societal acceptance of anything: You use existing technology to justify this one, so then what even more intrusive future technology will be justified because of Google Glass?

As opposed to the freedoms we seem so eager to toss out these days, technological advancement is inevitable and rapid regardless of our resistance to accepting the potential dangers that come with it (see your camera example), so it's only logical to proceed with caution.

jim2
jim2

This argument smells a lot like "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." Certain genies (like the one the above quote references) can't be put back in their bottles, and letting this or any other new technology "breathe" is basically accepting it in advance. There also tends to be a snowballing effect with societal acceptance of anything: You use existing technology to justify this one, so then what even more intrusive future technology will be justified because of Google Glass?

As opposed to the freedoms we seem so eager to toss out these days, technological advancement is inevitable and rapid regardless of our resistance to accepting the potential dangers that come with it (see your camera example), so it's only logical to proceed with caution.

TheThunder
TheThunder

Looks like the powers of Google have gotten to the media. Nobody is safe! Lock your doors! 

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

Distracted driving has been shown to be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Just because something is 'new technology' doesn't mean it's a good idea. 

archFinder
archFinder

Don't get me wrong here .... I'm all for advancing technology and Google Glass in particular.  But we must admit there is a security gap in place right now between rapidly advancing technology and privacy.  Technology has the potential to virtually (pun intended) eliminate privacy in the way we are accustomed to it.  Combining facial recognition with all the other "breadcrumbs" out there about who we are and what we do is already out of control.  The thing that is missing is uniform laws that govern who, when, what, how and where personal identification information is handled.  Federal Legislation like the HIPPA laws that protect our personal health information (PHI)  is needed to provide jail terms and big fines for those who would violate the rules protecting personal identification information (PII).  

zaglossus
zaglossus

Google Glass is coming whether we like it or not. But I fear the Luddites in this case might be on to something.

BaileyWalker
BaileyWalker

@AshleyND869 UK is already creating laws that ban driving while wearing Google Glass. I'm sure other nations will as well.

Heian
Heian

Well, technology did allow you to share your neanderthal-like opinion.

ukjb
ukjb

@jim2 
It is logical to proceed with caution, but not a single person has clearly identified how or why Google Glass is any more privacy sensitive or intrusive than any of the spy cameras already on the market. The point of the article isn't that we should accept them willy nilly without giving them consideration. The point is that all the knee-jerk reactions are undeserved. That the people talking about bashing the brains in of any nerd wearing these are misguided reactions.

ukjb
ukjb

@actiontvonline The price will come down by a lot. this $1500 was more of an investment price on the developers part. I'd say the opening price will be around $800 at first, falling to around $500 after a couple years.

JenniferBonin
JenniferBonin

@PaulDirksAgreed.  My main problem with the Google Glass isn't privacy.  It's that people will be even less connected with their actual surroundings than they already are.

On the other hand, I can't exactly say we should BAN such a technology, since I can think of occasions where it would be valuable.  The article notes "a firefighter who wants to use maps with the device to improve fire safety."  Can you IMAGINE how much help it would be to have a fire-proof map in front of your face, when you bust into a random burning building to rescue someone, and all you can see is smoke?  Similarly, there are other uses where it would be actively helpful, and many more which would be harmless.

What it comes down to, in the end, is that the technology isn't bad.  It's people misusing the technology that cause the problems.

ukjb
ukjb

@PaulDirks 
and there are already laws in place that say you can't drive while operating technology like this... so what's your point? does looking at your car radio and/or GPS count as distracted driving?

JenniferBonin
JenniferBonin

@archFinder As this article point out, the technology to photograph or record people without their knowledge already exists in the form of cell phones, as well as more surreptitious devices.  And the ability to identify people digitally from faces also already exists (see Facebook's auto-tagging feature, for a low-tech example).  And laws concerning the illegality of photographing or recording in private or semi-private settings already exist, and will already be applicable toward the Google Glass, the same as they are toward cell phone cameras.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not a fan of the Google Glass in most situations, because I think it's likely to make people pay even less attention to their surroundings (and other people) than current technology already does.  But while I think the Glass is stupid and potentially dangerous, I'm not worried about it from a privacy standard.  Because, when you get down to it, it's not doing anything NEW.  It's just doing it using a head-held device rather than a hand-held one.  If you're worried about your privacy because of the Google Glass, you should be at least as concerned about the fact that half your neighbors have iPhones!

Now, do us all a favor, please, and go back and actually READ this article.  Because every fear you had was already countered in a clear and rational way inside it.

Gardoglee
Gardoglee

Ten years ago when HIPAA priivacy protections were being implemented, we told people that such laws needed to be extended to all Personally Identifiable Information (PII), not just Personal Health Information (PHI). It turns out it is surprisingly difficult to convince some people that they should be concerned about this. At the same time, it seems it is really easy to convince people that the government has too much information. Folks, consider this. When 9/11 took place, private companies were able to deliver complete and detailed information on the highjackers hours before the government was able to find even the simplest data from government data bases. Web tracking companies, in particualr, were able to crash data seaches to quickly determine who they were, and where they ahd been. And that was twelve years ago. The technology and databases which private companies have now make 2001 look primative. And you are just as easily searched in that data as anyone else on Earth.

archFinder
archFinder

@JenniferBonin @archFinder   Shucks!  I thought I had read this article!  Maybe you missed the part about the need for UNIFORM PII protections.  For instance, are the laws against recording in private or semi-private settings that already exist the same in New York as they are in Texas?  Who enforces those?  How do I get the evidence I need to prosecute .... or to determine if I can prosecute?  Do I file a civil case or can I go to the police an file a criminal complaint?  And what if these unscrupulous @#$% people sell my ID information to someone else. Who do I sue then?   And, what about the concept of PII exposure via technologies that have yet to be developed? I'm looking to establish the concept of PII ownership being invested in the individual, while allowing legitimate uses of surveillance by third parties for their own purposes only.  Google your own name sometime.  If you want to pay the $50, you can find out more than you want to be publicly available on the internet.  This kind of aggregation of information and the sale of it should not be allowed without our consent.  Who do I sue about that?


JenniferBonin
JenniferBonin

@archFinder @JenniferBonin I imagine you'd sue the same person if they did all this horribleness using a Google Glass as if they did it without one.  That's my point: the problems already exist.