It’s not as if Google Glass is the apocalyptic “Mark of the Beast,” but if everyone starts wearing them, then it might suddenly become cause for worry. A London-based group called “Stop the Cyborgs” thinks that Glass is currently a niche product, but if it turns out to be very popular, then we should really think hard about privacy considerations.
If you’ve followed our earlier report about several establishments banning the use of Google Glass, you might be familiar with the “No Glass” logo that shop owners have started putting up. This particular design, which has caught on in the media, was created by the London-based group composed of three twenty-something graduate students. Their basic premise is that Google Glass is a threat to privacy.
“If it’s just a few geeks wearing it, it’s a niche tool [and] I don’t think it’s a problem,” said Adam, one of the members, in a statement to Ars Technica. “But if suddenly everyone is wearing it and this becomes as prevalent as smartphones—you can see it becomes very intrusive very quickly. It’s not about the tech, it’s about the social culture around it.”
Google’s main business model, after all, involves the use of big data and monetizing these through advertising. And with location-tracking, increasingly sophisticated facial recognition software, persistent data and smartphones on almost any person, then the addition of Google Glass would mean the search giant can keep track of anyone’s movements anywhere, and even associate these with their identity.
It becomes an even scarier proposition when you consider that Glass can theoretically start recording even without the user asking it to — at least during the beta stage, in which Glass was seeded to developers.
Still, the group does admit that Glass does have its upsides, especially in assistive technology. For instance, developers are now trying to turn Glass into a seeing-eye device for blind individuals. As such, Stop the Cyborg says that it asks “that if you do ban Google Glass and similar devices from your property that you also respect the rights of such people and do not prevent them from using assistive devices if the data remains within the control of the individual.”
The age of wearable computing has already come. The question is how much it will change human behavior. True enough, the same concerns have been made about camera-phones before. However, Glass “lowers the transaction costs of taking photos and videos,” says law professor Woodrow Hartzog. With Glass, a person does not need to hold a digital camera or smartphone against your face. Just by simply looking at you, they can already be checking you out through AR, and Google, in turn, could already be associating information with you.
Should this be a big concern?