Seeing the Future through Google’s Glasses
When imagining the future, what do you see? Many people probably envision flying cars, alternative energy sources, or maybe even drinkable ocean water. In other words, people hope for exciting new technology that will improve quality of life. People picture inventions like Google Glass. This might sound like a product endorsement, but hear me out.
Imagine a technology that allows its user to record video, take pictures, check social media, and send messages, all without using his or her hands. Now imagine that technology crammed into the frame of a pair of eyeglasses. I give you, Google Glass; the technology that’s making nerds wet their pants with glee.
Google Glass’s Dark Lenses
The science fiction genre tends to paint a dystopian view of the future. Perhaps my science fiction literature class makes me paranoid, but I’m a bit concerned with Glass’s potential for abuse. Consider the implications of everyone walking around constantly recording hands-free video.
- How will you know if you’ve been recorded by a Glass user? Will the headset have an LED to notify others of video capture in progress? If so, what will prevent a user from hacking the system and overriding the LED?
- Just because Google says that it will protect user’s privacy doesn’t mean that it will. Google has gotten in trouble in the past for tracking user data without permission. Additionally, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill called CISPA. The bill makes it legal for Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other online sites to give user information to law enforcement and government officials.
- What if Google Glass constantly records its environment without notifying its user? Anything that you or those around you say or do will be observed and stored by Google forever. I have low expectations when it comes to Google protecting my privacy from Big Brother.
- Even if you choose to opt out of the Google Glass experience, your privacy remains at risk. Say this Glass thing catches on; there will hardly be a single place that you can go without being recorded. Already, there exists a growing list of places where Glass will likely be banned.
The Conspiracy of Transparency
You can see how Google Glass might make conspiracy theorists freak out. Already, bloggers have written in-depth horror stories about the conspiracy potentials for Google Glass.
Transparency can be a good thing. If you don’t do anything wrong, then you have nothing to hide! Wrong. The fact that your activities currently comply with the law does not mean that they will always be legal everywhere.
Say for example, that you’re recorded smoking pot in public. That’s perfectly legal if you’re in Colorado. Say however, that you return home from vacation to your job in New York, and your employer asks you to pack up your desk and find a new job. Turns out your employer searched Google for your name, and a video of you smoking pot popped up. A nearby Google Glass user captured your fun and uploaded their video. Google’s facial recognition software then tagged you in the video and made it available for the public to search. Your employer doesn’t like recreational drug use and, “you no longer mesh with the company’s image.” Suddenly, transparency loses its appeal.
This may sound like science fiction. Conspiracy theorists might be freaking out over nothing. Or, Google might be setting us up for a new era where Big Brother tracks our every move. Proceed with caution.