The foreseeable privacy issues surrounding the new innovation, Google Glass are as apparent as their presence on the wearer’s face.
Once again the trade-off between society’s ethics and the advancement of technology has forced innovators to tread a very fine line. The ability of Google Glass to inconspicuously capture almost anything in real time raises questions as to whether Google’s data collecting endeavours have gone too far.
The main concern is how easily data that is collected about people can be used without their permission. Everything from a private conversation, to our seemingly trivial journey to the post office can be recorded one minute, and posted online the next.
Some argue that if you aren’t doing anything illegal then what’s the big deal? But this is a very naive defence to the device’s prying capability. The fact that video and audio can be utilised together might even change the way society behaves for fear that you never know who is watching, or listening and for what purpose.
There are currently 1.85 million CCTV cameras in the UK, according to figures in 2011 from the Association of Chief Police Officers, and these cameras must abide by a code of practice to stay within the law. Society largely accepts their presence as a necessity for public safety.
However an activist group running a Campaign called “Stop The Cyborgs” are none too happy about the same power being given to the general public themselves – and rightly so. Is the capability of Google Glass to be put under lawful control at all feasible, or will control be just as challenging as combating piracy, or drug trafficking?
In any case, regulation for a product of this type is highly warranted and may declare where the device can and cannot be used. While driving, in the cinema or in changing rooms are just a few examples of where use of the product will likely be prohibited.
Already Google Glass has been pre-emptively banned in a dive (neighbourhood) bar in Seattle, because many of its patrons don’t want people to know that they are there. Conceptual apps using face recognition, similar to the Facebook photo tagging feature have been under development for smartphones in recent years.
The ability of peoples’ identities to be displayed digitally while they pass you in the street isn’t far from becoming a reality. However Google has banned such facial recognition apps for Glass – showing that they haven’t totally neglected privacy issues during the device’s development.
It can be argued that Google’s motivation behind this comprehensive collection of data is all for the benefit of the Google user’s experience. Google Maps itself is set for a revamp, tailoring searches based on historical data about you; essentially mapping out your life. Much like how the ads you see on the Google search engine are a reflection of the type of consumer that Google perceives you to be, so will the results presented to you on Google Maps. This means that some results may be intentionally omitted, removing the serendipitous discovery of a new coffee shop in the area, and favouring the ones you habitually search for.
What is certain is that privacy is an issue that will be debated long after the scheduled launch of Glass in 2014, as we discover more uses for the device and create more third party apps as a consequence. The very nature of Glass’ capturing ability remits a huge increase in demand for cloud computing. This is welcome news for the establishing industry which has been bolstering its own state of security.
The one big question remains – how many restrictions are we prepared to impose on Google Glass to protect our inalienable right to privacy at the expense of innovation, as the era of augmented reality looms?