Do The Privacy Implications Of Google Glass Scare You?

    May 12, 2013
    Zach Walton
    Comments are off for this post.

Google Glass has some people spooked. They think that Glass turns those who wear the technology into a surveillance cyborg. Now some groups are calling upon the government to take action.

Do you think Google Glass should be banned? Let us know in the comments.

TechDirt reports that a new We The People petition submitted on May 3, a man from Seattle, Washington is requesting that the government “Ban Google Glass from use in the USA until clear limitations are placed to prevent indecent public surveillance.” As the title suggets, those who have signed are scared of the privacy implications:

Google Glass is a new twist on technology which hasn’t had clearly stated limits on the locations in US communities where it can and cannot be used. In order to protect our communities we need limitations to prevent indecent public surveillance of our friends, children, and families.

It is hard to prevent it because the hardware gives no notification that it is recording an individual at any given time.

Aside from the admittedly weak (only 34 signatures in a week) petition, a group called Stop the Cyborgs has sprung up in recent months in protest of Google Glass. It’s not like they hate Google or Glass though. They also don’t want a ban. Instead, the group argues that they just want consumers to think about what they buy and the implications of technology:

  • That there is a social, commercial and technological trend towards ubiquitous surveillance and monitoring. This trend gives a few corporations and government agencies an unprecedented amount of information about individuals and society as a whole.
  • That human decisions are becoming increasingly influenced technological systems the internal workings of which are secret and which are difficult to challenge. This trend gives a few corporations and governments an unprecedented ability to manipulate society.
  • That initiatives like internet of things, smart cities and government 2.0 are replacing the democratic process with technical systems which will be difficult to change.
  • Even if organisations do not abuse their power. The combination of wearable computing & biometrics allows everything to be linked to a single identity available to anyone you interact with. Thus for example it becomes impossible to separate your professional and personal life; it becomes impossible to be politically active without your political affiliation being known to everyone you interact with; it becomes impossible to keep your relationships private; it becomes impossible to speak or behave freely in the moment without considering how your actions might be perceived in all future contexts and all future audiences.
  • As for its specific beef with Google Glass, the group lists a number of problems it has with the technology:

  • The camera is always pointing at head height and only needs to be electronically activated to record. This allows the possibility of accidental or remote activation.
  • The devices are hands free so the person does not need to take on the role of cameraman but rather just happens to be recording. This encourages people to record data and makes it harder to tell if someone is recording compared to them pointing a camera or smart phone at you.
  • Heads up displays allow people to be fed information without others knowing they are receiving it.
  • The devices are typically tied into a central server, which aggregates and stores information.
  • Their concerns may be legitimate as hackers with early access to Glass say its relatively easy to turn the device into a surveillance tool. The obvious first thought is that people can use Glass to spy on others, but the real threat is that hackers could use Glass to spy on the person wearing them. Jay Freeman explains:

    Once the attacker has root on your Glass, they have much more power than if they had access to your phone or even your computer: they have control over a camera and a microphone that are attached to your head. A bugged Glass doesn’t just watch your every move: it watches everything you are looking at (intentionally or furtively) and hears everything you do. The only thing it doesn’t know are your thoughts.

    The obvious problem, of course, is that you might be using it in fairly private situations. Yesterday, Robert Scoble demonstrated on his Google+ feed that it survived being in the shower with him. Thankfully (for him, and possibly for us), this extreme dedication to around-the-clock usage of Glass also protects him from malicious attacks: good luck getting even a minute alone with his hardware ;P.

    However, a more subtle issue is that, in a way, it also hacks into every device you interact with. It knows all your passwords, for example, as it can watch you type them. It even manages to monitor your usage of otherwise safe, old-fashioned technology: it watches you enter door codes, it takes pictures of your keys, and it records what you write using a pen and paper. Nothing is safe once your Glass has been hacked.

    Do you think fears of Google Glass are overblown? Or do you think hackers could wreak havoc on those who choose to wear Glass? Let us know in the comments.

    I think most can agree that hardware like Glass shouldn’t be allowed in certain places. It’s totally reasonable to ban its use at bars, strip clubs and other places that respect client confidentiality. It should also probably be banned from the workplace or other locations that handle sensitive data.

    That being said, the consumer version of Glass is at least a year away. That gives Google and developers enough time to ensure that Glass respects privacy while potentially ushering in a new era of wearable computing.

    Despite all of the fear circulating around Google Glass, you probably won’t have to worry about people abusing the technology. Those who use Glass will either be too busy taking selfies in the shower or being punched in the face.

    Is Google Glass a revolution in wearable computing? Or is it a surveillance nightmare? Let us know in the comments.

    • streets

      Look if they ban thus wearable camera they need to ban all surveillance Cameras from public areas including these cameras that snap photos of license plates. You cant , its called Being in public for a reason… You are not in a private environment. Now private establishments have the right to refuse entry to whom every they want and as so can designate thier private establishments a ” no glass” zone but the government set presedence years ago allowing public cams set up outside businesses and telephone poles etc

    • http://thepete.com thepete

      I don’t see how the facts fit the story here. They claim that anyone with a Glass could be secretly recording video, but isn’t wearing a Glass the least secret thing you could possibly do? In fact, if I really wanted to shoot video of someone secretly, I would put my phone in the breast pocket of my shirt so that the camera lens is visible just above the top of the pocket. The lens is wide enough to capture anything in front of me and my phone gives no indication that it is recording. This technology has existed for years now. Yet, there has been no tsunami of “indecent public surveillance”. In fact, this kind of paranoia may put Glass users in danger of unfair prejudice because this kind of illogical, knee-jerk fear will spread to people who aren’t good at thinking for themselves. I really hope we don’t see any assaults of Glass users because it’ll be groups like the “Stop the Cyborgs” people who encouraged irrational fear. I mean, we live in a world where you can’t go into a Starbucks, use an elevator, or get money from an ATM without being on camera. What kind of shot will a Glass be able to get that is more invasive than all the other cameras in our lives?

      • http://yahoo.com Joseph Eddie Gaspard

        I don’t really know about glass so I really don’t know what to comment on.

    • Cajun Scientist

      The exact stupidity driving those who oppose overflights by police drones in America is at work here against Google Glass. The ONLY time people are opposed to security cameras and other public area surveillance methods is when criminals don’t want to be seen at work. Here in Colorado alone, drones might have stopped at least two abductions from progressing to rape/murders.

      And the same is true of Google Glass – “indecent public surveillance” is a contradiction in terms. Those who perform indecencies in public are the ONLY people who have to worry. You know, guys with their pants down below their pubic symphyses, other folks who insist on assaulting the public with views of their anatomy we’d rather not have.

      • Robert

        have to worry? It will great time when you will think a lot before tell anything to anybody, will accept what your intimate relationships can be on youtube, etc. So you will play a role of ‘ideal guy’, but it not a real life.

      • Robert in Canada

        Comments here are missing the real concern that the glasses can easily be used for criminal purposes such as recording your PIN number when you use a credit card, ATM, door entry code, etc.

        If there are only a few people wearing Google Glasses, there won’t be much problem because they will stand out and you can avoid being around them.

        But what if 30% of all people wear them, or what if someone makes a new Google Glass that looks like regular glasses?

        That is the concern.

      • JIm

        It’s liberal clowns like you that have allowed this government to get out of control. You apparently stand for nothing. Enoughs enough with this spying crap. Clowns like you will be getting their faces rubbed in dog shit wearing these invasive things. Don’t you know that Google is part of the government, their exec’s fly in Airforce planes! Get your head out of the sand Asshole!!!!

    • John Stith

      I think the question is always where you draw the line. Preventing abductions is great but we do have a constitutional right to privacy. It’s not always criminals. A friend who was a civilian employee in a military base said the helicopter pilots would fly around looking for girls in bikinis in their own backyards. And… this would give companies like google to see even more activities you do and create ads for it. Also, some things don’t need to be on camera. The problem is so much is already on camera and subsequently youtube or some other tube site, it’s almost a moot point.

    • http://www.unsecuredbusinesslending.com Business Loans

      From the administration who brought you drones. they are probably funding google glasses

    • Robert

      yes, sure, google glass must be banned. Such device with direct internet connection to google is a government dream.
      I not think google cares peoples when developing such device, latest situation with google updates show what they in business only for $$$$.

    • http://www.houseofsubmission.nl/main.php MrsKate

      We have plenty of parties in the ‘adult scene’ and being active in the BDSM scene we dislike these kind of gadgets at the parties.
      There is already a big issue with cell phones and on many parties it is forbidden toe even have your cell with you. I am sure these kind of gadgets will not be allowed there.
      Especially because quite some people have to hide their secret BDSM life because that could cost them their jobs.

    • http://cebuanasweethearts.com wayne ast

      Facebook has herds of millions of sheep entering into their system all of the intimate details of their life – and you worry about Google Glass and privacy?

    • http://inoutside.biz Imelda Ortega Suzara

      In a public space and event it probably would be fun to use and great for recording tourist trips. I hope it can upload to Youtube. However, if a hacker hacks into the user’s Google Glass, and there is private confidential information in front such as typing password or using bank card pin numbers, then it can be used for crime because it is not only the user who is viewing it but a hacker who intends to use the user’s private information for their own illegal benefit! So user beware when it involves looking at your own private confidential information because a hacker may be secretly viewing it too.

    • http://www.daniel-bauer.com Daniel

      What bothers me is not that wankers will film me or my girl friend on the nudist beach and google employees will masturbate while censuring data, what really bothers is that google will analyze all the streams using face recognition, use it to make profiles even and especially of people that do not have agreed in the use of their data.
      It is not that google glasses should be banned: google itself must be banned. It is the most perverted control-mechanism the world has ever seen.

    • Berney

      Why not just put a blinking LED into the frame that lets everyone know the glasses are recording?

    • Berney

      With all the cameras at street corners, security points and so forth I think it is funny that we are getting worked up about Google Glass. There is no such thing as true privacy anymore. You are naive if you think you have privacy at all. Anyone who wants to know something about you can get it very easy and just because you are in your bedroom doesn’t mean you can’t be seen. So this is just one more thing out there amongst the hundreds of other things that can watch you. You are even being watched from space. Get used to it. We are one big family and someone has to baby sit us. There never was any privacy. Human nature makes us curious and we are going to look when ever we can. I may even be looking at you right now. :)

    • http://webmarketingadvantage.com Dave Roberts

      How bizarre! Whoever thought up the idea that you’re entitled to privacy when you’re in public?

      Yes, someone wearing Google Glass can record video any time. So what? I can have a pen in my pocket that records video without even the tell of special glasses.

      Technology evolves. Things change. Think about how to benefit from the change; don’t waste your time trying to roll it back. You can’t.

    • http://bossy-girls.net/ Lila Sovietskaya

      Technology, even if banned, keeps existing and can be used to do good or evil. Yes, banning Google Glass would be good. However, with time, ordinary looking glasses can incorporate that technology.

      Prostitution is illegal in Italy. Now there are more prostitutes in Italy than when it was illegal. Forbidding something does not make it go away. It drives it underground or limits its extent. Some highly moral people object to adult media and would like it to be banned. That is great, criminals will step is and supply what the highly moral people want to prevent others to see. Yes, banning Google Glass might be good, however you cannot stop technology. Someone will sell illegal glasses that incorporate that technology.

    • Greg

      Look, we see this sort of thing pop up from time to time. We saw it with Google Gibbon and to a lesser extent, Panda. It blows over soon enough. Affiliate sites just keep on truckin’ through. Another storm in a tea cup from Google.

    • http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/cops-beat-woman-filming-another-beating Loki

      This article addresses some important issues far broader than are realistic to consider with respect to Google or its Glass alone. Sadly, it poses a false dichotomy, where being useful, revolutionary progress, a privacy and civil rights nightmare, and a civil rights major advance, all coexist in a complex maze.

      See the news report linked under my alias above, for yet the latest episode of far too many in the untelevised series, Cops Gone Wild. If anything needs live streaming and recorded feeds for broad public access, it’s both dashcams and Google Glass equivalent views of what cops do. Since cops retain arrest and other powers 24/7 in most cases, and have been known to conspire in bribe taking, extortion, and other criminal acts outside uniformed shift hours, that reasonably calls for recording their exploits 24/7 for the duration of employment. As they do often deal with confidential info, the live feeds might need to go in to a public interest legal collective depository, perhaps hosted by EFF and ACLU (some state ACLU chapters already offer smart phone apps to record remote video), and be available for valid evidence purposes with a chain of custody that ensures no tampering by felon gangs known for deprivation of rights under color of law conspiracies (Federal felonies 18 USC 241 & 242, rarely prosecuted).

      I’ve yet to see mention of ADA issues, and Google Glass or similar devices. In some states, discrimination by all businesses is illegal (not just housing, food, and transportation), and by design, Google Glass isn’t made available to over half of people who wear eyeglasses. The restriction of such devices in some public accommodation locations could be illegal, if used by some with macular degeneration or other visual disabilities, as assistive devices. Since a strip bar or a nightclub style BDSM club are legally “public accommodations”, ADA, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, et al law mandate that such users be treated equally as others, similar to how seeing eye dogs are required to be allowed in restaurants and other places where dogs are banned otherwise. That also means theaters and casinos cannot lawfully ban some cameras by some users, even if IP or fraud or privacy laws may restrict how information is used. Likewise, if a Google Glass style device is developed as a low vision assistive technology, those disability issues will trump any limits on use in locker, bath, or dressing rooms, or in medical facilities.

      Add to those issues the reality that button, pinhole, key chain including car alarm fob style, and other disguise and concealed cameras are readily available and inexpensive, it’s not just Google’s project that needs to be considered in legal policy and social ethics. How much different is it if people have conflicting ethics over mentioning who they saw in some alt-genre bar, or other social encounter? Perhaps the comparison of priests who pick up young boys in gay discos and are smart enough to leave the clerical collar at home, with young boys being 21 year olds, versus others who pick up 14 year olds inside their stone temples, needs public visibility? How does having a video stream, compare to being seen visually and in person around facilities with traditional privacy issues, but where business, functional, or social patterns make full privacy nonexistent in person?

      The conflicts of social stigma or termination of employment related to this technology needs to be addressed separate from the technology. It’s illegal to fire someone or impose other discriminatory acts by employers and government, but that law is at present often difficult to enforce, and not applied honestly as to the range of religion and cultural issues over which discrimination is common. Constructs like “profanity” or “indecency”, now under FCC review, and most visible acts that reflect different ideological core values over sexuality or life choices, are properly protected discrimination traits, and not valid basis for existing judicial or legislative frauds that pretend a pseudo-christian institutionalized bigotry lynch mob mentality is somehow legally neutral or possible for government, employers, or public accommodation businesses to act on, without those actions being violations of civil and criminal laws.

      That’s a complex maze of law, society, and ethics to untangle, but it exists whether Google sells Glass or not. Glass merely cranks up the visible presence of the issues a tenth of a notch.

      How about a yet bigger legal and practical mess, that links to much of that? What would happen if instead of debating what properly protected speech is allegedly harmful to minors, that per se causes none of the alleged harm, we used civil rights criteria for a new model of child abuse? If parents or institutions, including schools or churches among others, indoctrinate kids with adequately serious bigotry or deprivation of coping skills for diverse society, that a pathological level of dysphoria or cognitive dissonance results on viewing others visibly living by different cultural or religious values now often seen as targets for censorship, that’s treated as evidence of illegal child abuse rather than an excuse to trample civil rights of minorities to visibly exist in society.

      Again, not a new issue, and one that was central to the 2000 litigation of US v Playboy, and its “Leading Coalition of Scholars” Amicus now hosted on http://www.NCAC.org What Glass does is make the global village’s fragments more visible to all, not cause those long standing conflicts dating back centuries. The only specific issue of Glass itself is Google’s business practices, to censor how users use or interact with Glass based on corporate prejudices, or to harvest information with no means to tell Google it’s none of their business to scarf through the bitstream merely by a customer using the product.

    • http://www.basic-blue.za.net Quentin Dixon

      I think it is a fantastic device and I would love to own a Glass, the price would need to come down though. It takes personal communication to the next level. But I do think each Glass should have a unique encryption which can only be accessed by your computer.

    • John Owles

      There is already too much snooping going on, often dressed up in cozy phrases. Enough is enough. I am drastically reducing use of technology and being extremely selective about which bits are useful and which to ditch. I have started by not having a mobile phone on except when I absolutely need it. We do not need all of this stuff.

    • http://Mabuzi.com Kevin

      Yes as this invasion requires consent.

      Many people have become so used to privacy invasions its now the norm.

    • https://sites.google.com/site/justsayingmypiece/home/why-can-t-we-all-get-along Charlie

      Yeah, I’ve commented before about this, and I think Google Glass™ might face some hard times relating to how, where, and when the technology will be “acceptable to use”. In my thinking, there could be serious allegations and accusations by “strangers” being recorded (and possibly uploaded to the Internet) without their consent.

      Since the technology is really not “brand new” in the truest sense (it’s basically existing technology tweaked and miniaturized to fit a glasses frame, right?), we should already be well aware that the chances of being recorded and even ‘published’ are pretty high in some places. Many large cities have cameras everywhere…some of which are available to view online. If you’re walking through Times Square, it’s likely you’re also “published” online for anyone to view, right? No ‘permissions’ given to whoever owns the cams to upload recorded videos with you in it…no permissions needed, I guess.

      But I doubt it will go as simply for individuals wearing Google Glass™, because individuals do not have the same ‘rights’ as cities do. If someone feels somehow ‘threatened’ by the fact that a stranger is recording and possibly uploading their activities via Google Glass™, they might have legal recourse to prevent that, I’m guessing. Dunno, for sure, but I’m just sayin’…

    • http://www.opace.co.uk Opace

      Tiny cameras that have been in pens have been available for years now. I know this is slightly different from Google glass but we can’t criticise new technology because of the possibility of a few people violating the privacy of others.

      The only negative for me still is the price!

    • AlastairMcK

      It’s cute that many of you think your opinion matters.

      The opinions that matter are Gen-Z (currently aged 7-17, & Gen-A, born from 2010 on)… and they don’t give a shit about privacy! They’ve grown up with social media and putting their lives on open display.

      It’s just as well because, as with industrial power looms in the 17th Century, Glass is coming.

      When the tipping point arrives (many/most people have them), cafe’s and other Glass-free zones will re-open their doors to Glass wearers, or lose business.

      In the end Glass will be banned only in security sensitive areas like airports and commercially sensitive areas like cinemas, just as cameras are now.

    • http://www.graciousstore.com Gracious Store

      Government has limit to what it can regulate. Google has to come forward with the full disclosure of the capabilities of google glass. It is only when the government has complete understanding of the internal and detail working of the glass can it be able to make legislation concern its useage.

    • http://girlmakeupstuff.com donald

      I don’t think for once that they should be banned,because they stated the terms and regulation for people to read before using them,and it covers their legal right over those that might sue them.

    • Dan Mann

      Just because a device is invented does not mean the public will accept it. Google glass is quite possibly the most invasive and slipperly-slope-of-never-to-return-lost-privacy evil invention. Humans will use it in wrong ways and it eventually will be banned, or at least that is my hope.

    • Dervish

      This is ridiculous. Sure, I’ll admit that in the future there could be more advanced versions, and misuse could happen in certain situations, but honestly, I don’t care. If people really want to spend hours hacking my device, and then hours watching me go about my day to day business, which usually consists of walking around, reading, sometimes going out and generally doing things no one else cares about, then go ahead. There are so many people out there going “Oh noes, not my privacy!” When the truth is, no one really cares about what they do. One could then argue; “But I don’t want them watching me do more private things!” Such as intimate contact with others, showering, going to the toilet, that type of thing. But…why would you be wearing these while doing those things? Alot of people aren’t taking into account you can simply just take off the damn things whenever you want. Really, I can’t wait to get my hands on a pair.

    • Arnie

      Oh my God?! What is wrong with this world… It’s like Terminator 2