Opinion

Google Glass: Wave goodbye to your privacy

Last week, Seattle’s 5 Point Café, a funky bar in the city’s Belttown neighborhood, posted notice of its ban on Google Glass, adding: “ass kickings will be encouraged for violators.” The owner’s reason? “People want to go [to my bar] and be not known … and definitely don’t want to be secretly filmed or videotaped and immediately put on the Internet.”

If you haven’t already heard, Google Glass is the next big thing in tech, poised to transform our lifestyles. Think smartphones had an impact? They’ve got nothing on this new product, set for release next year. Essentially, Google Glass is a computer-device in the form of (you guessed it) glasses. While wearing the glasses, calendar reminders, directions, emails, iChat conversations — and basically anything you can currently do via your smartphone — display on your lens. Commands are easily executed via a quick verbal instruction. It’s all hands-free; you don’t even have to look down at a phone’s screen.

Provided you don’t mind wearing the Tron-looking headgear (it’s a toss-up whether it’s a dorky look or a cutting-edge, hipster status symbol) or the hefty $1,500 initial price tag, this all sounds pretty cool, right?

Not so fast. Like any good smartphone, the glasses are able to record what you are seeing (as well as what you are hearing), which is where the huge privacy dangers come in.

But hey, we already run the danger of someone recording us when we’re in public, don’t we? Anyone can whip out their iPhone or Android and record me or take a photo of me!

Sure. Here’s the big distinction, though: Say I’m at a restaurant and spot Kobe Bryant sitting next to me. Yes, I can take my iPhone and record a video or snap a photo. But it is dreadfully conspicuous (kind of obvious when I’m holding my iPhone at arm’s length and pointing it directly at Kobe). In fact, it’s why most individuals restrain themselves from capturing video or photos of many situations. We don’t want that person — or others — to know we are doing so. Who wants to be seen as rude, nosy, uncool, or disrespectful? Even if I was willing to try, before I could even snap my first photo or video, Kobe would notice my uncouth act, his companion (or mine) would notice, the restaurant’s manager would notice and ask me to refrain, etc.

But, alas, Google Glass does away with all this! It allows someone to surreptitiously and discretely record, without anyone being the wiser. Heck, I’m simply looking in your direction — nothing wrong with that! The next day, voila, I’ve shared it with friends and it’s even up on YouTube.

One need not go through the list of potential behavior that would be captured, stored, transmitted, and/or shared online. Spot your married co-worker kissing the secretary at the office Christmas party? Record the video! He won’t know you are — you’re just wearing your Google Glass and checking out his great dance moves! Having a conversation at a coffee shop with a friend, which you want someone else to listen in on? Just have them quietly sit in via your Google Glass’s iChat! Worth noting: It isn’t simply the fear of inappropriate behavior being secretly caught. What of those individuals who simply don’t appreciate having their picture or video taken (with reasons as simple as “I’m unphotogenic!”)? What about children playing in the park? The sky’s the limit for highly unnoticeable, undetectable, stealth-mode capturing of video, photos, and conversations.