Google is about to augment your reality. Google Glass adds an overlay of rich data to your real-time sensory experience. You can visually index your surroundings, conduct Google searches, capture and share pictures and videos, and even translate your voice into another language.
Amazing? Absolutely. Dangerous? Potentially.
Consider this: you have no right to privacy in terms of where you travel on the public streets. Would you want someone wearing one of these headsets snapping a photo of you entering an adult store? What if someone captures a couple’s romantic moment on a bridge, and it turns out they’re engaged in an extramarital affair?
To be sure, such things happen already, with the advent of smartphones, but Google Glass enhances the AR experience with features including facial recognition. If the amorous couple you photograph using the service is online (and who isn’t nowadays?), they could be exposed publically (pardon the pun) when you share the picture using social media.
The Google Glass user could potentially be called as a witness in court to lay the foundation for the photo’s admissibility. No one has time to become involved in potentially limitless third-party litigation.
Some people refer to Google Glass and similar technology as “Terminator vision,” referring to the way cyborgs from the famous movie franchise see relevant data points pop up about whatever is in their line of vision. I think of it as “stalker vision.”
Smartphones already make it possible for creeps to surreptitiously snap pictures of people, but the facial recognition component affords an immediate and potentially dangerous level of access to information that, even now, can’t be accessed instantaneously.
The facial recognition component affords an immediate and potentially dangerous level of access to information
I liken it to the not so distant past in which mortgages were kept on file at the Registry of Deeds. Your home address, how much you purchased your home for, and how much you borrowed from the mortgage lender was all public information (and still is), but one had to know where to look, and physically go to the Registry of Deeds to find that information. Now, it’s easily accessible via an online search.
Imagine if someone were to see you on a train, scan you with Google Glass, find your name via your public social media presence, then index that name and your current location against public property information. In less time than it takes to get a mocha latte, that person could have enough information about you to stalk you (or worse).
Check your settings on your social networks and disable suggested photo tags, facial recognition, and anything similar. This won’t insulate you from risk, but it’s a good first step.
A somewhat less sensational aspect of potential risk arises in terms of intellectual property. The companies that own copyright in popular films, music and other commodities have been known to sue for incidental capture of copyrighted material that people use in films or post online. In most instances, the copyright owner issues a takedown notice, the offending video or post is removed by YouTube (or Facebook, or Twitter, etc.), and that’s the end of it, but it doesn’t have to be.
The company could sue you for posting allegedly infringing content. Even if you ultimately win (and you just might), the cost of defending a copyright infringement lawsuit is more than the average person can afford, and they settle to avoid the time and money it would take to defend the suit.
Google Glass technology could potentially be used to surreptitiously capture trade secrets
Similarly, Google Glass technology could potentially be used to surreptitiously capture trade secrets or other confidential information. Consider waiting in line at the doctor’s office or at the bank. How much sensitive information do you necessarily reveal in those situations? The safest assumption is that, if you see a Google Glass headset, it’s operational and recording. You may be wrong, but behave as though you’re right. You’ll be glad you did.
These days, it’s nearly impossible to “live off the grid,” even if you wanted to. Many share legitimate privacy concerns, and technology like Google Glass is developing much more quickly than legislation can evolve to address potential misuse.
Short of renting your home and deleting your social media presence, however, the best you can do is to police your settings, disable facial recognition whenever possible, and look up from your own smartphone now and then to see if anyone’s Googling you. If they are, Google them back. At least then you’ll know who you’re dealing with.
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