Google’s Glass house

Glass is a rare window into Google’s soul.

Seldom does a new product come along that exposes a company like Google Glass does.

For the few that have not heard of Google Glass yet, it is a hands-free, wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display above one’s eye to provide information to the user and enable video recording of whatever a user sees. What’s recorded is stored in Google’s data centers and that data will be integrated with most Google products and services.

For one day, April 15, Google is offering any American the opportunity to buy Glass for $1,500.

While Google has lionized Glass early-adopters as “Explorers,” and marketed Glass users as beautiful, fit and hip, in public they’re often called “Glassholes.”

Why such animosity? A recent poll by Toluna of 1,000 Americans found 72% had privacy concerns about Glass. Their second biggest fear was safety and distractibility. And a third of those polled feared being mugged while wearing Glass.

Another reason is visceral. Glass is an in-your-face device that people know can spy and eavesdrop on their private activities and conversations without their knowledge or consent.

So how does Google Glass expose Google?

Glass brings attention to problems Google would rather conceal.

First, as the Toluna poll exposed, Americans understand Google Glass inherently creates privacy concerns.

Already over a dozen bars and restaurants in San Francisco have banned Google Glass as an unwanted invasion of their customers’ privacy. In at least two instances, people were upset enough to physically attack Glass wearers in public.  With more Glass “Explorers” outside of the Silicon Valley area, expect more Glass privacy-related incidents in more places.

Google has settled with 38 states for violating tens of millions of Americans privacy. Google also received a record privacy fine from the FTC for breaking a previous FTC-Google privacy settlement by hacking into Safari’s browser to bypass iPhone users’ privacy settings.

Like beacons, more Glass users video recording more people in public will remind more people of Google’s bad privacy record.

Second, the more Glass users attempt to secretly record more private conversations without meaningful notice or consent, the more people will eventually learn of Google’s widespread wiretapping.

Google recently appealed to the Supreme Court a decision that ruled Google Street View’s secret interception of tens of millions of American homeowners’ unencrypted WiFi signals was illegal wiretapping.

And a different Federal Court ruled that Google’s routine interception of more than 100 million American Gmail users’ emails for the purposes of creating advertising profiles also constitutes illegal wiretapping.