Will we ignore privacy concerns for the convenience of Google Glass?

Last night my boyfriend said, “Promise me you won’t wear them in the house.”

Google Glass Privacy concerns spur 5 Point Cafe ban

5 Point Cafe Google Glass Ban logo

He was talking about Google Glass, and he was very serious.

For anyone who works in computer security or follows internet privacy developments, Google Glass represents a critical development.

As the release of the first devices draws near, pundits are weighing in on whether privacy concerns will block Glass adoption.

Some tech writers think we’ll be as indifferent to privacy concerns on Glass as we are on Facebook

I’m fascinated by the discussion, even though I’m a second-wave adopter and it’ll be all over but the shouting by the time I get Google Glass.

In the ZDNet article above Ben Woods says you can’t put the genie back in the bottle; over and over we’ve shown we’ll trade privacy for convenience, security or entertainment.

“You have zero privacy anyway,” Sun Microsystems chief executive Scott McNealy famously said in 1999. “Get over it.”

I buy that argument, personally; I think we’re so immersed in the adaptive process at this point that we triage out privacy concerns. Present Shock means selective awareness.

In 2013, when 4 million new users are adopting Pinterest in a month, we get on new apps fast. When was the last time you actually read a User Agreement? Or checked to see what photos of yourself are on Facebook?

Phones have had instant photo sharing for over 16 years; that’s plenty of time to get used to the idea that anyone can record you anywhere.

I won’t lie, it’s amazingly powerful (and more than a little scary) to be able to just start recording video or snapping pictures with a couple of flicks of your finger or simple voice commands.

Scary, maybe, but I think some of us were prepared for this by science fiction. Larry Niven’s Oath of Fealty and his stories involving copseyes predicted a world of essentially benevolent, tolerated, ubiquitous surveillance.

Then she looked up with a smile and moved closer to the camera. “Thank you, Officer,” she said.

It’s true drones are filming us in our backyards and Google Street View is photographing our front doors.

But as noted in this excellent CNN article by Amitai Etzioni, standard encryption of email, password protection of bank accounts and HIPAA regulations mean our most important records are actually far more secure than they were in the era of letters and file drawers. Anyone who has ever tipped over a file cabinet to access the locking mechanism because they lost the key knows this.

Becoming cyborgs might make us more civilized, too.

Google Glass is the beginning of the Alibi Archive, a crime-reduction concept from SF writer Robert Sawyer. The Alibi archive imagines that archived continuous personal space surveillance will affect behavioral choices.

This is an agency-based compliance, as opposed to the enforcement-based Person of Interest/Minority Report predictive psychology model.

And DARPA’s Mind’s Eye program and Big Data are working on that legatee of psychohistory right now. Wouldn’t you rather opt in than have the Brain Police break down your door?

Regardless, a Seattle dive bar has gotten itself some amusing press by pre-emptively banning Google Glass. The newsbite is a nice centerpiece for privacy-panic articles.

Google Glass is the company’s upcoming product that puts a computer on your face. Google is about to release the dorky-looking device and most likely it will be snapped up by the techie crowd. It is an innovative product that pushes live-blogging to the next level, and that will unleash a storm of concern never before seen caused by a mobile gadget.

The tech giant’s ‘wearable computing’ project is now being tested by volunteers, meaning you might already have been surreptitiously filmed and uploaded on to Google’s servers. How worried should you be?

Then there are the concerns that will surely pop up over wiretapping laws. In many states it’s illegal to record anyone without their permission. Imagine the flurry of legal activity that will result due to the fear that Google Glasses wearers have recorded others without notice. This could get messy very quickly.

Most people expressing concern about Glass focus on the fact that individuals can film you without your consent; I think the much more important discussion is about the fact that Google gathers data about you with Glass.

If this technology was being released to the market by a company whose goal was to sell it as a product, that would be one thing. But it’s been released by a company whose goal is to gather data about your habits so they can sell it to people who sell you things. And you, mediated by Glass, are the platform.

Glass is a HUD for Google, not a HUD for you.

Here’s a truly scary thought: eye movement tracking for phone screens is here. Glass could track what interests you by your eye movements, sell that data and surface ads in your field of view relevant to your interest. Or, Google could allow your Glass eye movement records to be subpoena’d. Have you ever looked at the ass of a minor?

Also, you might not want to see ads for ice cream when you’re on a diet, even if you can’t help turning your head when you hear the truck.

The genie isn’t going back in the bottle, though. Remember when calculator watches were going to destroy math class? The latest Pew study shows “seventy-three percent of teachers say that they or their students use cellphones in the classroom or to complete assignments.” Technological determinism aside, we’ve become habituated to jumping on new shinies.

Google Glass will be adopted, whatever the consequences.

Edit: in 2019, I must edit this post to note, obvs I was fucking wrong.

About Google Glass, and a lot more about Big Data. It never occurred to me that the tech companies would use our data for anything other than the simplest and fastest way they could make money, or that anyone OTHER than marketing people for expensive jeans and our own government would use our data, or that  waves of incels downvoting Captain Marvel would actually have a real-world effect.

In 2019, I reserve my techno-optimism for a Hail Mary pass at saving the burning planet, even though I know the plastic-eating nanites will come up on the shore and eat us after they clear the water column.

My husband and I got rid our of our phones in 2015, instead of getting Google Glass.

We have a landline. We live happily without Facebook and when I take the bus Zuck doesn’t know where I am until I pass a camera. But it’s too little, too late, and I have no idea what’s gonna happen. Honestly, I would no longer get a chip, in my head or anywhere else, and I hate those fuckers for destroying my jolly vision of my 2020 cyborg self. Among other things.

Some days, my husband says he thinks the internet was a mistake.

Some days, I think he’s right.

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