(Also: en français, en español简体中文繁體中文На русском, in het nederlands, em Português)

Google Glass might change your life, but not in the way you think. There’s something else Google Glass makes possible that no one – no one – has talked about yet, and so today I’m writing this blog post to describe it.

To read the raving accounts of tech journalists who Google commissioned for demos, you’d think Glass was something between a jetpack and a magic wand: something so cool, so sleek, so irresistible that it must inevitably replace that fading, pitifully out-of-date device called the smartphone.

Sergey Brin himself said as much yesterday, observing that it is “emasculating” to use a smartphone, “rubbing this featureless piece of glass.” His solution to that piece of glass, of course, is called Glass. And his solution to that emasculation is – well, as VentureBeat put it, “Sergey Brin calls smartphones ’emasculating’ – but dorky Google Glass [is] A-OK.”

Like every other shiny innovation these days, Google Glass will live or die solely on the experience it creates for people. The immediate, most visible problem in the Glass experience is how dorky the user looks while wearing it. No one wants to be the only person in the bar dressed like a cyborg from a 1992 virtual-reality movie. It’s embarrassing. Early adopters will abandon Google Glass if they don’t sense the social approval they seek while wearing it.

Google seems to have calculated this already and recently announced a partnership with Warby Parker, known for its designer glasses favored by the all-important younger demographic. (My own proposal, posted the day before, jokingly suggested that Google look into monocles.)

Except for the awkward physical design, the experience of using Google Glass has won high praise from reviewers. Seeing your bitstreams floating in the air in front of you, it would seem, is an ecstatic experience. Weather! Directions! Social network requests! Email overload! All floating in front of you, never out of your sight! For people who delight in a deluge of digital distractions, this is much more exciting than a smartphone, which forces you back to the boring offline world, every so often, when you put the phone away. Glass promises never to do that. In fact, in a feat of considerable chutzpah, Google is attempting to pitch Glass as an antidote to distraction, since users don’t have to look down at a phone. Right, because now the distractions are all conveniently placed directly into your eyeball! (For a more accurate exploration of Glass-enabled distraction, see this darkly comic parody video. Even edgier is this parody – warning, some spicy language.)

As if all that wasn’t enough, Google Glass comes with yet another, even more important feature: lifebits, the ability to record video of the people, places, and events around you, at all times. Veteran readers will remember that I predicted this six years ago in my book Bit Literacy. From Chapter 13:

The life bitstream will raise new and important issues. Should it be socially acceptable, for example, to record a private conversation with a friend? How will anyone be sure they’re not being recorded, in public or private? … Corporations, police, even friends with ‘life recorders’ will capture the actions and utterances of everyone in sight, whether they like it or not.

Today, finally, that future has arrived: a major company offering the ability to record your life, store it, and share it – all with a simple voice command.

And this is where our story takes a turn, toward a ramification that dwarfs every other issue raised so far on Google Glass. Yes, the glasses look dorky – Google will fix that. And sure, Glass forces users to be permanently plugged-in to Google’s digital world – that’s hardly a concern for the company or, for that matter, most users out there. No. The real issue raised by Google Glass, which will either cause the project to fail or create certain outcomes you may not want (which I’ll describe), has to do with the lifebits. Once again, it’s an issue of experience.

The Google Glass feature that (almost) no one is talking about is the experience – not of the user, but of everyone other than the user. A tweet by David Yee introduces it well:

There is a kid wearing Google Glasses at this restaurant which, until just now, used to be my favorite spot.

The key experiential question of Google Glass isn’t what it’s like to wear them, it’s what it’s like to be around someone else who’s wearing them. I’ll give an easy example. Your one-on-one conversation with someone wearing Google Glass is likely to be annoying, because you’ll suspect that you don’t have their undivided attention. And you can’t comfortably ask them to take the glasses off (especially when, inevitably, the device is integrated into prescription lenses). Finally – here’s where the problems really start – you don’t know if they’re taking a video of you.

Now pretend you don’t know a single person who wears Google Glass… and take a walk outside. Anywhere you go in public – any store, any sidewalk, any bus or subway – you’re liable to be recorded: audio and video. Fifty people on the bus might be Glassless, but if a single person wearing Glass gets on, you – and all 49 other passengers – could be recorded. Not just for a temporary throwaway video buffer, like a security camera, but recorded, stored permanently, and shared to the world.

Now, I know the response: “I’m recorded by security cameras all day, it doesn’t bother me, what’s the difference?” Hear me out – I’m not done. What makes Glass so unique is that it’s a Google project. And Google has the capacity to combine Glass with other technologies it owns.

First, take the video feeds from every Google Glass headset, worn by users worldwide. Regardless of whether video is only recorded temporarily, as in the first version of Glass, or always-on, as is certainly possible in future versions, the video all streams into Google’s own cloud of servers. Now add in facial recognition and the identity database that Google is building within Google Plus (with an emphasis on people’s accurate, real-world names): Google’s servers can process video files, at their leisure, to attempt identification on every person appearing in every video. And if Google Plus doesn’t sound like much, note that Mark Zuckerberg has already pledged that Facebook will develop apps for Glass.

Finally, consider the speech-to-text software that Google already employs, both in its servers and on the Glass devices themselves. Any audio in a video could, technically speaking, be converted to text, tagged to the individual who spoke it, and made fully searchable within Google’s search index.

Now our stage is set: not for what will happen, necessarily, but what I just want to point out could technically happen, by combining tools already available within Google.

Let’s return to the bus ride. It’s not a stretch to imagine that you could immediately be identified by that Google Glass user who gets on the bus and turns the camera toward you. Anything you say within earshot could be recorded, associated with the text, and tagged to your online identity. And stored in Google’s search index. Permanently.

I’m still not done.

The really interesting aspect is that all of the indexing, tagging, and storage could happen without the Google Glass user even requesting it. Any video taken by any Google Glass, anywhere, is likely to be stored on Google servers, where any post-processing (facial recognition, speech-to-text, etc.) could happen at the later request of Google, or any other corporate or governmental body, at any point in the future.

Remember when people were kind of creeped out by that car Google drove around to take pictures of your house? Most people got over it, because they got a nice StreetView feature in Google Maps as a result.

Google Glass is like one camera car for each of the thousands, possibly millions, of people who will wear the device – every single day, everywhere they go – on sidewalks, into restaurants, up elevators, around your office, into your home. From now on, starting today, anywhere you go within range of a Google Glass device, everything you do could be recorded and uploaded to Google’s cloud, and stored there for the rest of your life. You won’t know if you’re being recorded or not; and even if you do, you’ll have no way to stop it.

And that, my friends, is the experience that Google Glass creates. That is the experience we should be thinking about. The most important Google Glass experience is not the user experience – it’s the experience of everyone else. The experience of being a citizen, in public, is about to change.

Just think: if a million Google Glasses go out into the world and start storing audio and video of the world around them, the scope of Google search suddenly gets much, much bigger, and that search index will include you. Let me paint a picture. Ten years from now, someone, some company, or some organization, takes an interest in you, wants to know if you’ve ever said anything they consider offensive, or threatening, or just includes a mention of a certain word or phrase they find interesting. A single search query within Google’s cloud – whether initiated by a publicly available search, or a federal subpoena, or anything in between – will instantly bring up documentation of every word you’ve ever spoken within earshot of a Google Glass device.

This is the discussion we should have about Google Glass. The tech community, by all rights, should be leading this discussion. Yet most techies today are still chattering about whether they’ll look cool wearing the device.

Oh, and as for that physical design problem. If Google Glass does well enough in its initial launch to survive to subsequent versions, forget Warby Parker. The next company Google will call is Bausch & Lomb. Why wear bulky glasses when the entire device fits into a contact lens? And that, of course, would be the ultimate expression of the Google Glass idea: a digital world that is even more difficult to turn off, once it’s implanted directly into the user’s body. At that point you’ll not even know who might be recording you. There will be no opting out.

(Also: en français, en español简体中文, 繁體中文На русскомin het nederlands, em Português)

    • I not only think the author makes a good point but If I ever see someone looking at me with these dorky things, invading my privacy or not, I will tear them off their face and stamp on them (just to be on the safe side) 🙂

    • DRH …and I’ll have you up on assault charges right after you stomp me and my expensive property. Oh, and since this is going to the cloud, there’ll be a complete record of the assault online as it’s happening. How do you like them :)s ?

    • I agree that there are going to be lots of muggings of people with these glasses. If there was a video record of the mugging, it will only show the muggers wearing Guy Fawkes masks.

    • Assault? Wait for the first glass murder, when someone kills a glass wearer for fear of being seen and recorded doing something.

    • even if murder kill the guy with glass still that doesnt changes the outcome on the contrary makes it worse(remember the video gets stored in cloud)

    • I’m also thinking about something else. This is already happening. How could you tell your andoid phone is recording audio/video or not? How do you know it doen’t use 3G or whatever to send it somewhere? Well, you can see the source code of adroid, but you have no idea if it’s the same andoid as your phone’s one.
      But what about other smartphones(maybe smarter than us), which run proprietary OS’es? Well, there you can’t even check that up….

  1. Fantastic analysis, Mark. The ramifications of the Glass experience are just staggering.

    I wonder if Google has considered your concerns at all? If not, I predict congressional hearings in the not so distant (but not immediate enough) future.

    • Arpit Bansal says:

      Will these glasses switches off itself when we are not seeing through them… guess they are always recording even when we are sleeping… and what if somebody hacks my glass when i am not using them or even when i am using them.. Just wondering !!

    • I’m more concerned about what stays in Utah. Considering that the US Supreme Court essentially waived 4th Amendment rights this past week it looks like Big Brother is here to stay.

      Wired: The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say) http://dndy.jp/VULqZD

      Massachusetts Pirate Party: Supreme Court Kills 4th Amendment Online http://dndy.jp/ZPFftl

    • Brenda Starr says:

      In which case, card counters will have a field day with these things. Will casinos ban Google Glasses? How about health club locker rooms? Doctor’s offices?

  2. Wow. That’s a level of transparency I really don’t want in my life. Maybe the paranoid are not so paranoid. … “They’re watching you…”

  3. Steve diFilipo says:

    Excellent insight. However, haven’t we become habituated to all the surveillance cameras recording our almost every movement? For that matter aren’t we accustomed to the proliferation of smartphone videos and images unknowingly showing up on Facebook or YouTube? Once Glass becomes the new normal won’t we habituate to that also.
    There might be another social experience that evolves from Glass: a deeper sense of trust with those with whom you interact knowing that interaction won’t ‘show up’ on the internet.

    • MiketheFormerLibrarian says:

      I don’t think about security cameras 99.999% of the time simply because they aren’t pointing directly at me at eye level.

      And, given the kinds of things I see people sharing on social networking, I’m pretty sure I *won’t* start trusting people more.

    • Chris Miller says:

      I think there’s a difference between security cameras and Glass. Often security cameras aren’t reviewed unless a crime is committed, for a start. They also aren’t stored on Google servers. Also, if Glass video ever becomes searchable, the difference will be huge – not just anyone can get access to security camera footage, you usually need search warrants or court orders. Might Google have restrictions like that? I don’t know, maybe. Might they have opt-outs? God only knows. But even an opt-out requires you to know about it and be computer savvy enough to go through the process, which will still leave a lot of people vulnerable who might well have extremely good reasons for not wanting to be part of a searchable index of their every movement, like domestic abuse survivors, whistle blowers, political agents… and then there’s people who only become vulnerable LATER. Huge numbers of women (and lower, but still significant numbers of men) experience stalking at least once.

    • @MiketheFormerLibrarian
      I actually never realized that was the reason we are against this.
      Security Cameras are recording actions – that is why they are from above, Google Glass records people.

    • I’ve seen that comment multiple times now – that we’ve become habituated to the presence of security cameras, and we don’t mind them.

      Not all of us live in Big Brother City where there’s a camera on every building corner and inside every doorframe. Some of us don’t *want* to live in the city, and that’s just one of the very many reasons why.

      My life is *my* life. It’s private, and it’s my property. As long as my actions are not harming someone else, my actions and interactions are my property and not subject to recording or perusal by strangers.

      Some of you may not even see security cameras anymore; they’ve become as invisible to you as banner ads on a webpage. For the rest of us, those nosy lenses and big black bubbles stick out like sore thumbs and *draw* our attention.
      I would hate to ever think that I’d become so complacent, unobservant, and “habituated” to such an intrusion on my privacy.

  4. Easy solution – don’t be an a$$hole, don’t be a criminal.

    Record away – my life’s pretty cool so enjoy the show!

    • Ben,
      Who decides if / when being gay or being female in the presence of an unrelated male or being black in a rich area or Christian in Egypt or Muslim in Arknsas is illegal ?

      In the environment the OP describes, if you have EVER done anything that someone else didn’t like, you have the possibility that “they” (whoever they are) will become the government and will then have ways and means of finding you and pronouncing you guilty of being one of “those” people.


    • That is fine if you consent to be permanently taped, but not everyone else does. And this is not just about illegal activity. Everyday, people say things that are protected by free speech but still are not meant for a public audience.

    • Days of Broken Arrows says:

      This sounds like the hipster version of the myth “Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.” It’s a false assumption because those in charge can change the rules at anytime as to what constitutes a crime or social infraction.

      Also, being an “asshole” is relative. Recently a guy was taken to task online because during a convention he asked a woman for coffee during an elevator ride. He broke now laws but was socially shamed because he got on the bad side of the wrong person. This is what Google Glass will bring forth: a society of tattle-tales who will make mountains out of molehills. When you give everyone a gavel, everyone becomes judge and jury.

      Also, what slang expressions did we have as teens that are woefully politically incorrect now. You really want all that preserved digitally?

      This subject has been written about elsewhere. For details, look up “Debunking a myth: If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”

    • I’m not an a-hole or a criminal, but sometimes, I *do* do something stupid or silly. I don’t want those things recorded either.

    • Being caught for something isn’t what I fear – it’s forcing me to ask wearers to reassure myself that moments that were, by default, “reasonably” private (to the extent that security cameras *don’t* record everything* – like sound, or your every reaction), to remain private. Make these devices ubiquitous and my misanthropy will be complete – a single user I’ll act guarded around; having to ask the same of every other user, though, is just plain annoying.

    • The problem is one of perception and opinion. Take you for example- you probably think you are funny, or charming while women most likely find you annoying, and men think you are silly.

    • “Also, being an “asshole” is relative. Recently a guy was taken to task online because during a convention he asked a woman for coffee during an elevator ride. He broke now laws but was socially shamed because he got on the bad side of the wrong person.”
      Socially shamed, really? Okay, who is this guy? Name him. Provide me with some evidence that a specific person was made to suffer. Or, admit that you’re lying, because nobody knows who Elevator Guy was. That’s right, his name, if Rebecca Watson even knew it, has never once been mentioned in public identifying him as That Creepy Guy.
      Additionally, you leave out details like: it was three in the morning, he had already spent several hours in the woman’s company as part of a group in a bar (apparently he couldn’t have asked her there, but had to wait until she was alone in a confined space with him), she had already indicated that she wanted to go to bed, she was a speaker at the conference and had spent a lot of her talk time explaining how she didn’t like to be hit on at conferences, and his request was not for a coffee date sometime but “coffee” in his room right then. She also never called him an asshole – she just said, “Guys, don’t do that, it makes me uncomfortable.”

  5. Bravo. These are excellent points and questions. Good to know that critical thinking is alive. Disappointing to know that there’s not enough of it going around.

    Are we (as a culture) too busy, accepting, bored, or lazy? or some combination of these to wonder about this? Thanks for standing out from the crowd.

    • Good pointer, thanks. Now we just need footage of someone searching Google for every instance of a given keyword that someone has uttered in public over the past year…

    • airmanchairman says:

      Creepy Video Guy is being deliberately brusque and obtuse – I can imagine others being far more manipulative or clandestine (Glass actually facilitates these approaches) or even aggressive for that matter.
      This is going to open up a can of worms, as Mark has so eloquently asserted…

  6. What were those devices employed by restaurants in Tokyo that jammed cell phone signals? We’ll need a bariation on that so we can carry personal Google Glass scramblers in our pockets – or suffer the consequences.

    • Codes could be embedded in clothes and wearable items such that Glass would blue-dot or simple not record when you are in the field of view. A voice print hash could be stored by Google that would encrypt your records unless your approve release. Google would have to play ball to make this work.

      I must admit, I wish I would have had glass to record some of the meetings I had with my father while we were still together.

  7. Hmm, if Google Glass wearers don’t tell you they’re recording the conversation, wouldn’t that violate most states’ laws requiring notification, in advance, that a conversation is being recorded? Yep, lotsa’ hearings ahead.

    Personally, even though I’ve always been somewhat of an open book online, I do want to retain some semblance of privacy. Guess I need to start searching for a less wired place to live.

    • Lydia, in many states (including NY) the law requires only one person in a conversation to be aware that it is being recorded. The idea was to prevent external wiretap/recording of a private conversation.

      If you are talking with your boss, or a client, you can legally (in NY) record the conversation without giving them any notification since you, as one of the parties to the discussion, are aware it is being recorded.

      The implications in a world of google big brother glasses is not comforting.

    • The parties to a conversation may record it (in most states). But if I’m talking with a friend on the bus, and a google glass wearer enters, his recording that conversation is a crime.

    • I guess the new norm will be lots of white noise generators to make it really hard to pickup conersations

    • Seth, I think that there are court cases about similar issues. If I’m remembering correctly (which is not a guarantee), there is no clear assumption of privacy if you have a conversation in public, so you have no rights to expect it to not be recorded.

  8. Archie Miller says:

    Maybe this will spawn new products, like a small black tape dispenser so you can quickly tear off a piece to cover a “glasshole’s” uninvited camera.

  9. Google glass will be the sea change in human society. In changing who views us, we change who controls our behavior. We cross over the line between being free, and being monitored, because not only is all our data accessible, so are our actions and senses. History teaches that the temptation to acquire or use that much significant power over masses of people will be too much for one company, or certain governments, to resist. Indeed, wars have been fought over less. I’m just saying, it’s about slightly more than whether you look cool.

  10. I’ve always been taught if you’re going to ask people to think about a problem (which implies you’re asking readers to think of solutions) you should also present a solution or two.

    What, do you think, are some good answers to your concerns?

  11. As somebody who spent $5,000 on Lasik I can assure you I never again want to look like a dork wearing glasses. As an interaction designer I’ve struggled to find any benefits in Google Glass. Maybe it would be good for shopping or gaming? But I didn’t think of this scenario you described Mark and it’s horrible! Google could literally transform society into an Orwellian nightmare.

    Just today a friend on the West Coast ran a search on my name… took a screenshot of the result and emailed it to me. My email, phone and address are right there for the world to access. I really want to use some extremely inappropriate words to describe how I feel about this… I am an independent consultant who does web work so it’s not that big of a deal but this is too much. It really crosses a line.

    These corporations want to out compete each other in terms of innovation and the end user is the victim. The winners will be the 1% who will flip their GOOG stock at the precise moment the other 99% of us don’t know about.

    • I said the same Lasik thing to my wife. Ignoring all the privacy implications of Glass, I spent years in glasses feeling/looking like a dork, being made fun of by other kids, and all around hating wearing them. I find it interesting/crazy that people WANT to put them on.

    • Your opinions on glasses and their “dorkiness” are very culturally dependent. I’ve used glasses since I was 6 and I was never made fun of due to that. And it should be noted that nowadays “celebrities” (i.e., trend makers) are choosing to wear /fake/ glasses just for fashion.

      And while I agree about the potential privacy implications (just like I refuse to join G+, Facebook, etc), it should be noted that there’s plenty more in 1984 than the constant surveillance!

    • I love wearing glasses. I really only need them for driving at night and extensive comptuer work or long reading sessions but I prefer to wear them all the time because I like how I look in them, and I like how they feel on my face. (Weirdly I dislike jewlery.)

      I don’t mind looking like a dork, though I don’t think I do. Well, not usually.

  12. I’m glad you brought up this “embarrassing factor” for bystanders whose conversations could be recorded. What about the person that Glass is actually listening to and could be recording. “Siri, remind me to buy tampons.” “Siri, search the web for ‘gonorrhea symptoms.”

    The fact that this technology completely relies on audio and has no way for the user to control or input data inconspicuously leads me to believe that the hardware will be adopted by the same number of people that are still wearing blue-tooth headsets and phone clips attached to their belts.

    At Mindgrub, we’re pouring a lot of thought energy into developing software to correct this potential problem. However, I think it’s pretty reasonable that both the hardware and social response to such ground-breaking technology will continue to play a role in evolving this kind of information access.

    Doesn’t human nature and technology effect each other equally?

    • Demetris Drakos says:

      The touchpad on the side of Glass might be feeling a bit left out by your grand analysis.. Also, who the hell voice searches for gonorrhea symptoms in public???

  13. Riel Notermans says:

    When I look back 100 years, where about all people were quite religious, they always were aware of some higher power constantly sneaking on them.

    They survived pretty well.

    I think you took it too far with Google just taking everything you do. Until now nothing gets shared without my consent. I hope… and expect that, to stay that way.

    Things change.

    • I think the difference there is those people in the past didn’t have the higher power strapped to their face!

    • Every site you visit that contains either Google Analytics, Adsense, Adwords, Youtube, etc logs your request to Google, and the government doesn’t need your consent to get those logs.

  14. Apel Mjausson says:

    This reminds me of iPhones that periodically took photos of whatever happened to be around them, without their owners knowledge or consent. If it can happen with an iPhone, it can happen with Glass. Google may also have learned not to store unauthorized photo, video or audio in a place where the material can be discovered by the owner of the device.

    Also, keep in mind that there’s no guarantee that the facial recognition and/or audio transcript will be correct in itself or in context (for context, see Shirley Sherrod).

    We currently have protection against old and incorrect credit reports to protect us in Mark’s scenario of the employer doing due diligence on a potential hire. We already have problems with employers searching Facebook, finding a couple of outre photos and letting that influence their hiring decision. So far I haven’t heard about anybody who wasn’t hired because the employer found out their religion or political inclination, but does anybody seriously think that it doesn’t happen? Mark’s post raises even more serious issues regarding job applicants’ privacy.

    • Apel, good point – and I was just talking with a friend about Shirley Sherrod’s story. For anyone who doesn’t know it, read the Wikipedia entry. Sherrod suffered viciously unfair treatment, brought about by a video clip taken out of context. If we base our civic discourse on tiny video clips and other online tidbits, we should expect to see more of the same.

  15. Great article. I think we are about to see a giant social change in what we consider to be ‘good’ employees. Everyone will end up saying stupid shit while being recorded and we will just have to get used to the fact that no one is the ‘normal’ employee that employers want, or better yet, that there is a distinction between someone’s personal life and their suitability as an employee.

  16. Thank you for this post … I immediately imagined the glass would become a contact lens; however, your framing of the experience for everyone else is so dead on it makes me want to throw up.

  17. Seraphina Brennan says:

    While I found this article to be dead on accurate and certainly extremely interesting to read, I can’t help but to play devil’s advocate for a moment.

    Yes, Google Glass means that you can be recorded and identified at any point in time. However, I can do that right now with my smartphone. I can push the record button, hold it in a non-chalant way, and I can easily record you without you realizing it.

    If I wanted, I could get a pinhole camera, put it on myself, and then record you that way too.

    Sure, Google Glass takes this type of recording to a new, more accessible level. That changes things. However, my point is that I can do this type of stuff right now.

    The main change would be if the public becomes interested in utilizing the technology that way. Perhaps Glass will simply make this thought more apparent in the minds of users. However, I’m not sure how interested people are in doing something like that.

    But, only time will tell, I guess. But I do think they should install something like a light on the glasses, just to denote that they are recording.

    • True, you can do it now. But it’s not automatically uploaded, tagged, converted to text etc. Or archived electronically forever.

    • They do have a LED on the glasses to indicate when you are filming. The instant upload feature (which Google already offers to smartphones) can be deactivated.

      I’m not too worried. Social norms will regulate this, just as they regulate use of cell phone cameras which we’ve had for 15 years, or pinhole cameras which we’ve had for a hundred .

      Google can probably be relied upon to make the technology open, and give users access to their data, as they currently do (including the option to move it out, delete it, delete it selectively etc.)

      Google won’t sell the information. That threatens their business model, which is to use the information themselves and sell the fruits.

      How well they resist government pressure remains to be seen, but unlike almost all companies its size, Google has shown some spine.

  18. I think this is a little sensational. Interesting, and definitely scary, but sensational. If Google’s IDs are actually comprehensive enough to include the majority of people that interact with at least one person wearing google glass, the huge number of search inquiries that anyone would have to sift through to find a video/text of one given person doing something elicit is just ridiculous. I think it would take decades before a realistic version of this would exist.

  19. Perhaps Google can develop technology to detect if someone is an asshole just by capturing an image of their face.

  20. You say that the tech people aren’t thinking about these things, but many are. Just not the ones that squee about every single new toy that comes along. Hackers have been looking at the problem of identity and privacy for a while, and there are various solutions out there already for hiding your face from cameras. The simplest one I can think of is a knit cap with an infra-red light centered on your forehead. It’s just a matter of time before similar things start popping up to obscure your voice in audio recordings, too.

  21. I’ve never been worried about google or concerned with the transparency involved with being online and involved in social networking sites. But this all feels like a bad cyberpunk universe and it creeps me out. A lot.

  22. Chris Lockhart (@chrisonea) says:

    But… the government already does this without our consent. Perhaps the real issue you’ve identified is scale.

  23. In the conversations I’ve been in, where this topic has been discussed, the conclusion has been that this is happening anyways, and is a direct consequence of the falling prices of digital cameras.

    Within 10-20 years, I expect that only the very rich will be able to afford to have privacy.

  24. I used to be an IT professional until I saw where all this was taking us, starting with facebook. Then I got the hell out.

    My prediction is that a new class of hipsters will come along that will eschew the online world in favor of the real one.

    Also, expect retroactive prosecutions based on what you posted to social networks 5 years ago.


    • When I listen to my son asking me for things (he’s 4), even now he expects absolutely everything to be free and accessible straight away, he expects (and he’s normally right) that when we talk about something, like our relatives in America, that we can go see where they live on google street view. This type of thing will probably be the norm for him by the time he’s a teenager. Instead of asking your mates what they did last weekend, just check their life-stream, or whatever it’ll be called.

  25. Someone should invent a counter device that when on your person, it will pixelate your image and mess up the audio if anyone tries to record you. I believe the government can already disable cameras on phones in secure areas.

  26. This world is worse than the world of 1984. Imagine a world where everything and anything is stored on google’s servers? This my friends is Skynet.

  27. I guess we’re just going to have to consider public public and not private. We’re sort of there with cellphones already, but many people still seem to think that the things they do in public are some how in private. If they were, we’d call that private too, but we don’t, ’cause it’s public.

  28. It’s a very disquieting sensation to feel like you are being watched, however indirectly. Some people easily relish the attention anyway, and others like myself tend to be more reserved. That freedom of opening up in comfortable spaces, being silly or bizarre for the sake of making a friend laugh. It’s something that could never happen in pubic anymore. Yes, someone could take out a cell phone and record, usually by the time the action is 90% complete.

    Something that is passively recorded, cataloged, and stored is so intrusive. So many things could be snipped out of context, without meaning, explanation or warning. I can at least see someone hold up a smartphone and point it. Even then, they have to decide what to upload and share on their own. If they can tear away from texts, tweets and Facebook status updates that is.

  29. I don’t know if my understanding is off, but I thought CCTV etc only recorded images not sound?? I thought it was illegal to record video with sound without consent. There’s a big difference between your movements being captured on surveillance video and your private conversations and interactions being recorded and uploaded/stored/tagged/made public etc. It sounds horrifying. I know I say plenty of inappropriate things in jest in conversation with friends, but I’m guessing voice-to-text doesn’t translate tone! Or, as others have said, context.

    Also, why is there a need for this stuff to be constantly in your face anyway? If anyone I knew bought and used this technology I’d probably not hang around with them anymore on account of their being a dickhead.

  30. Mark Hurst, why are you moderating out my post which contains links to Quora thread on this topic? What is your concern my friend?

  31. This just isn’t going to happen. If that’s what Google wanted to do at some point, it would be made public, and the masses would reject it.

    Regardless, I don’t care if they have my entire life recorded and pass it around. Fine by me.

  32. Google already has everyone’s information anyway, and it’s not published, it’s not accessible. If we were worried about this we wouldn’t be using email or the internet in general.

  33. I can understand why your mind goes where it does when contemplating the possibilities with Glass. However, if you’re saying things you might regret, to anyone, and it’s recorded, that’s on you.

    The act of being recorded without your knowledge can, and understandably makes people nervous. I’m sure there’ll be legislation introduced to protect those who find themselves in Google’s cloud.

    • It’s not about whether or not you regret what you say. It’s about how others perceive what you say.

  34. I don’t know why the writer is so paranoid, this whole blog post made me think, this guy must be wearing a tin foil hat or something because honestly Google can do much worse than what you guys are saying. I want Google Glass. Rich folks have no idea how bad it is to not be able to afford LASIK eye surgery and having to live your whole life with thick cheap glasses being forced to fix them with a paperclip or tape until we save up enough money to buy new frames. I think this Google Glass may be a blessing for those of us who still need to wear glasses and gives will us an advantage to reduce our disability and dependencies on old fashioned “portable ARM microcomputers with connection to the internet” Smartphones as normal people say. As to privacy concerns, welcome to the 2013, everything is open and free. If you have something to hide, you should be not be here.

    • If you can only afford cheap glasses, you won’t be able to afford Google Glass anyway. Mine are extra-thin and they still cost probably less than half of what Glass will cost.

      As for the “something to hide” argument, I give you a quote from someone who ruled in his day:

      If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.

      You can replace “six lines” with “six minutes of video”, it’s the same concept.

  35. ThirteenthLetter says:

    The problem is not the recording. The problem is a society where people are judged by random things they say in unimportant conversations. If we had a society that would laugh at people who want to ban offensive words or patent obvious inventions — in other words, if the United States had a sane culture — Google Glass or any competing equivalent wouldn’t be worth worrying about.

    • airmanchairman says:

      Or judged by random actions taken out of context by those with an agenda.

      I recall a brilliant series of adverts by a UK newspaper where a uniformed policeman appeared to be chasing a black man – it turned out the latter was a plain-clothes detective and they were both chasing a suspect.

  36. Recording a conversation without the other party’s consent is illegal. Publishing someone’s image without a release is grounds for a lawsuit. But will this be enforceable if everyone’s dorky kid is recording willy nilly?

    • @Mark Levy: it’s not illegal everywhere. In lots of places, it’s legal to record a conversation as long as one party knows it’s being recorded — that party can of course be the one wearing the Google glasses.

    • It’s entirely possible that the behavior will be ubiquitous even if it’s illegal. Look at music piracy – it’s simply impossible for the music industry to stop, despite having all of the legal advantages.

  37. I wouldn’t count on the dork factor slowing adoption. Just consider bluetooth earpieces. But of course that’s the least of it. And I wouldn’t count on the law or really anything else preventing the adoption of a technology catastrophe for personal privacy. Just consider the erosion of privacy over the last 20 years or so. Perhaps the best hope is in counter measures. I’m thinking of a virtual version of Phillip K. Dick’s scramble suit, something that would block resolution of your image through digital imaging devices and decisively distort your voice on digital listening technologies. Yes, it’s visionary, but not much more than Google Glasses would have seemed a few decades ago. And yes it’s an arms war, but sometimes the best defense is in fact a good defense.

    • airmanchairman says:

      Aside from the “dork factor” and uncomfortable fact that Google is the vendor of this intrusion-facilitating technology, for me it simply lacks that “one more thing”/ to turn it into that killer, must-have gadget that will counterbalance the creeping sense of paranoia that’s already taking hold even ahead of its adoption.

  38. Jonathan Hartley says:

    There is a science fiction story somewhere on my shelves from about ten years ago called “Nordberg beats the system”, author umpteen, which is about a world where everyone wears a Google Glass like device, and one man becomes a sensation by deciding to take his off. Along the lines of “So you’re just relying on your regular old memory all the time?” “That’s right.” “OMG! Go on then, do you remember my name?” “Mark, I’ve known you for six months.” “OMG! Did you see that? He remembered my name!”

  39. Great post Mark. I’ve often been stumped at how it seems that people are oblivious to the science fiction reality before us. Our reality is much more like science fiction that most don’t even realize is already here yet. There is no ‘expectation of privacy’ to protect your every image in public, and to find all the data ignorance we have among the producers of data. It’s the Matrix with each set of Google Eyes as agents mapping the ‘mediated landscape’ reality.

  40. So maybe now, people will actually be required to own (and own up to) everything they say and do? That would be great! Maybe public perception will finally stop caring about stupid stuff everybody actually does, and actually care only about lies that mean something?
    Imagine if all bankers were recorded, all politicians, all police, all drivers, … Full reciprocal transparency would be liberating and enabling.
    And totally impossible for humans sof yesterday to even comprehend,.much less accept.

    • Full reciprocal transparency would stuff out our chance for progress in many ways. The laws are the way they are because people took action to change them. Why did the prohibition end? Because everyone was drinking anyways. How did the civil rights movement make a difference? People were standing up against the authorities of the time.

      If the beginnings of either of these movements were recorded with speech-to-text and fed to a database which was monitored for certain trigger words, they would have been stamped out in their roots as soon as a law was violated (or if you want to be paranoid, even sooner).

      The issue is larger than one of personal privacy. If this information is accessible by authorities, this could seriously hinder the evolution of a society’s values by destroying the possibility for change. In a place where everything is monitored, the laws would control the people. Not the other way around.

  41. David Whitmore says:

    Excellent post.

    The British Channel 4 series “Black Mirror” had a story covering a similar type of always on recording tech, memory implants – not glasses – 3rd episode of its first series “The Entire History of You” which was worth a look for the imagined dark ways this type of tech impacts on peoples lives.

  42. Let’s rename it the “intimate wearable panopticon” or also the “american dashcam”. When everything is recorded and usable at a point in future, we get an “interesting” future, such as judges sending subpoena for all the geolocated Google Glasses at that time in this place.

    I predict also a new trend of people with divergent eye issues for the medical part.

    • It’s so cute — this belief that since the truth’s being uploaded by a single, massively-powerful corporation with government contracts, that it will stay the truth, once subpoenaed. Why in heaven’s name wouldn’t we expect testilying, once Google has a three-dimensional digital record as a basis for animating any changes in the record they wish?

      Since there is no separate record citizens can maintain, how can they even dispute their Glass record of them committing crimes or fomenting sedition? If Google needs a permanently-open cash spigot, all it need do is look the other way once the Feds decide they need a bit of data to play with.

      Google no longer needs to be responsive to the needs of its customers… since we are no longer its customers.

  43. Technology never runs in reverse. Love it or hate it the world turns.
    Shall we agree that we will not burn Mr Google Michelangelo at the stake just yet?
    Glass exists and it will live if it is useful and promotes productivity. It will live even if it turns out to be only a fun new toy.
    My 300 baud modem was pretty amazing when I got it to work with my Apple II. Try walking backwards for a day then tell me how much you hate Glass.

  44. Great article. I really enjoyed reading it. It’s scary to think that the concepts that you highlight will soon become a reality. I also think it’s fascinating. Times are changing and it’s exciting.

    A possible solution could be to have an opt out feature for Google Glass, if you don’t want to be recorded then you tell Google and once a persons Google Glass device recognises you then it can blur your image in all video recordings, just like peoples faces and number plates in Google maps. It could also delete your voice from all audio recordings.

  45. Exactly what I’ve wrote in Italian for my readers.

    Note the idea of “explorers”, the name for the first users wearing these glasses.

    It’s a huge problem. Stay in touch, in Italy I talk often about privacy on my legal blog.

  46. No, really. I already heard all of this when cameras were first introduced on mobile phones, just chill out and stop living like a secret service agent.

  47. I’ll worry about this when Google are not forced to blur out faces, numbers and car registration plates from street view. Ie, even now they are not allowed to store identifiable information about strangers, due to privacy issues.

  48. What worries me is the risk this could pose to family members. I do not want my children being recorded in a manner that could easily determine who my kids are and then potentially where they live go to school, etc. The possible repercussions are frightening.

  49. I say “bring it on”. All of the points you’re raising are great ones. Let’s dive in and solve them and experience the the possibilities that technology can give us. No fear!

  50. This future, where records of everyone is stored on a computer. I don’t think it will change much in the long run. Because everyone will be recorded. Sure your kids might get recorded and put in a database… but so will the people recording them.

    It doesn’t even matter that every misconduct you have might be recorded and stored so that future employers can look at it. That could be literally *years* of footage to sift through to find the incidences of misconduct. Short of a pending criminal investigation, I doubt most companies would spend the time and money to sift through that just to find footage of you flipping the bird at some jerk on the freeway.

    I guess I’m saying that having all the information in the world is almost as useless as having none at all.

    Well, unless someone develops a video search engine. Then… then we can worry.

    • Excellent article and stimulus for serious debate!
      “Any data about me, should not without my prior authorisation and full informed consent be shared with another party, and stored by another party. In other words any data captured about me should be accessible and used only be me however that information is captured, where that information is related to my identity.”
      Unless those who have recorded this (possibly very sensitive medical data) decide for safeguarding issues, that ‘the greater good’ is achieved by breaching confidentiality and acting with ‘higher powers’…
      Certainly a lot to debate on here, ethics, privacy, law and order, freedom etc.
      It would be weird to see fellow humans walking around all like motorbike riders, (I robot, Westworld, Minority Report etc etc).but by then it may just be “g.contacts” 😉
      Detection of crime and prevention too, is one thing; invasion of privacy, breach of confidentiality / personal space is another…

  51. John Waterworth says:

    Masters project looked at the experience of wearing a passive camera, in that case to help you remember the names of people you met.

    I was surprised how accepting other people were of having someone in their midst who was wearing a passive camera, and how quickly both the wearer and everyone around them forgot about it.

    So while there will be some initial resistance, we will get used Ito it quite quickly.

    And then the creepy up-skirt shots, revenge videos, etc. will be shared more and more often … until maybe they start to seem normal too.

  52. Google Glass makes me really glad I’m on my way out of the adult industry.

    I remember that when cellphones with cameras became popular, all the stripclubs I worked at began enforcing rules about not having your phone out in the club. Now that everybody uses smartphones for so many different communications, particularly business, there’s no reasonable way to not allow them. If it wasn’t bad enough that everyone is allowed to bring their 8mp cellphone cameras into the club, let me tell you the horror of spotting an iPhone directed at me. The bouncer could break that phone, but the picture is already in the cloud.

    So yeah… Google Glass users? Say goodbye to all but the most desperate of the strippers.

  53. Surveillance devices have been around for years so in a sense the privacy problem with Google Glass is social rather than purely technological.

    Firstly Google is capable of making it socially acceptable (even) cool to participate in a massive crowd sourced surveillance project rather than creepy.

    Secondly the HUD means that surveillance material is not going to sit in some office somewhere but rather people will be able to access information on you at the moment they interact with you. The threat is therefore not just from some authoritarian government but also from petty spying and discrimination by ordinary people.

  54. Colin Robson says:

    Excellent article, but i’m surprised nobody has thought or mentioned the bombardment of google ads that will definitely be in there.

    “We’ve noticed you’ve been knocked over by a car whilst composing a tweet, here are some relevant accident claims adverts you may be interested in”

  55. Yes, you are right. I stumbled first time about these goggles reading David Brin’s “Earth” (1990). It’s playing in 2038 . There, many elderly people record their environment to note the police, mostly if youths behave inadequately.

  56. Great article but i think you can switch off your glasses or hide the “pinhole camera”, it’s like the webcam pointing at you (yep, top of your screen right now), it’s not recording because the little red led is off, really ?
    Spies glasses exist since a long time, every time the “Big brother watching you” complo is emerging if a company release a new stuff, you don’t want to be recorded ? Why not, reputation exist since humans, exist with or without technology.
    The only one interesting point is ; who can acces to this information and for how many $$ a company can buy it from Google ?

  57. honkytonkwillie says:

    Colin Robson nails it! I can’t believe it took 69 replies to hit pay dirt. It’s a way to get more of everyones’ money.

    Google will be able to profile everyone – where they go, what they do, what their current needs and interests are, what kind of folks they associate with, etc., ad-infinitum – to better target everyone with advertising.

    They’ll make unumaginable Google-buck$ selling ads perfectly matched to the profiled individuals, ads which have a nearly 100% conversion rate.

    People will never suspect Google played a part in switching their preference from Diet Coke to Diet Pepsi, and consume twice as much as they used to.

  58. Rob Leclerc says:

    Nice point, but I think you could have summarized this in 1 paragraph instead of having an 8 paragraph lead in. Respect your readers time.

  59. clive booth says:

    Thanks for the article. I totally agree.I know that there are persons who use dark glasses with a camera and sound incorporated to record in the public place. It´s spying.

  60. While I can certainly understand how some people could have trepidations about Project Glass, it seems to me that this article is nothing more than scaremongering. You have painted an Orwellian picture of Google and instead of taking into consideration the lengthy and stringent privacy acts that are in place in the western world (to store confidential information about anyone and allow it to be indexed and searched would be in clear violation of several privacy laws). Google, along with Facebook, twitter and any other major social networking sites do store information about their users, but what is broadcast to the outside world has to be, and is, controlled by the user.

    You are correct that, yes, a user could hypothetically record video footage at any time… But how is that different from now? Glass requires either voice activation (using “OK glass” to use a command) or using the touchpad on the side of the glasses. Both draw attention to the user.

    Ultimately, what we are seeing is a backlash to the idea of what glass could become rather than what it is offering. How about Instant translation? Either from a signpost or from a conversation. Universal translation will become possible. Or how about crime prevention? Witnessing a crime could yield video evidence instantaneously.

    It would bring information closer to everyone.

    • airmanchairman says:

      Don’t forget there is also an innocuous and very common gesture that activates Glass; by simply inclining one’s head upwards and back to level, a user can start recording at any time.

      Oh, what comically paranoid times lie in wait for society (“why did you walk away/turn your back to me/punch me?” – “You nodded in a very odd way for no reason, dude”.

  61. Oh my dear Techno-Fetishist … I just wish somebody had written a Science Fiction Story about the Effect of Camera’s and Surveillance everywhere …

    Oh wait …

  62. David Bruant says:

    Google ships Android which dominates in terms of number of phone it’s installed in. A phone can record sound and video.
    If the world you’re describing was met to happen, wouldn’t we already be living in it?

    “Remember when people were kind of creeped out by that car Google drove around to take pictures of your house?”
    => Google took public roads that anyone can take. That’s all things that anyone can see. They’re just making it more accessible.

    “Most people got over it, because they got a nice StreetView feature in Google Maps as a result.”
    => And Google blurred people faces and registration plates on cars. I heard they are reactive to all requests of this kind.

    Google like Facebook, like every other company dealing with private data has incentives not going too far with the data.

    • airmanchairman says:

      “Google like Facebook, like every other company dealing with private data has incentives not going too far with the data”.

      Amen, bro…

  63. John Hodgson says:

    It seems to me that what we are witnessing is the beginning of a change in consciousness that will transform human life. A thousand years ago, people knew only their immediate surroundings. Very few travelled, and those who did lost daily contact with home. Now we have the potential that everyone can be constantly in touch with other people and places anywhere in the world. What will life be like in another thousand or even 100 years’ time? The glasses are a clumsy prosthesis, but we can already imagine ways in which future consciousness will be transformed. And hopefully communication and mutual understanding will help put an end to tribal divisions.

    • airmanchairman says:

      Ancient books and legends from various cultures make mention of an indelible record of all activity in existence. For instance “akasha” or ether, known in Asian mysticism as the fifth ancient “element” after earth, air, water and fire, is said to be the medium on which all and everything is indelibly recorded.

      I have often shuddered in superstitious dread of Google and its activities (Google Earth, Street View and the unsecured WiFi SSID collection scandal and now this) as the second coming of the Oracle of Delphi, Scrying Glasses, a physical manifestation of the Akashic Record.

      Google Glass merely intensifies this dread.
      And I’m an ex-aviator, currently a telecoms engineer…

    • Because the Internet’s done so well with that so far. /sarcasm

      Face facts: your nifty little slab of silicon is not going to change human neurobiology, no matter how ubiquitous it is.

  64. Charles Moore says:

    I hear a whole lot of crying about being recorded. This is where the world is headed, this is going to happen. Legislation won’t stop it, blog posts won’t stop it, nothing can. You will be recorded, audio and video, and the only place you are likely to not be recorded is in your home. You need to get used to this fact. People will have to learn to stand behind what they say, because once it’s out of their mouth its too late to change it. I for one welcome the change, I am tired of liars and double talkers saying anything they like just to back-peddle when it doesn’t go the way they want it to. I welcome holding people to their words and actions.

    • And you don’t think that those of power and influence will not be able to corrupt the public record? It is only data after all.

      Don’t be so naive.

    • airmanchairman says:

      You’re both right; this is inevitably where society’s headed, and yes, people should say what they mean and mean what they say (and do) but in equal measure, those with an agenda and a not entirely altruistic end in mind can subject this new development to serious misuse and abuse.

      Checks and balances are urgently required to redress concerns that Mark has so brilliantly highlighted here.

    • Charles, if you don’t value your privacy, that’s fine. But you don’t get to devalue mine, and neither does anyone else. And if you’re not seeing the difference between the current state of surveillance and a Google Glass world – ubiquitous, mobile, instantly-on video and audio recording with the data controlled by a single private company – then I suggest you haven’t thought very deeply about the issue.

  65. You’re dead on. A couple guys made a great video of what the world might be like with Glass-like contact lenses. It shows interactions on a date and a few other settings that are pretty fascinating. I’m not – in any way – involved in the video, but check it out here: http://vimeo.com/46304267

  66. Great piece but I will say this, what these fears suggest is nothing more than an inability to view the future. And I don’t just mean you Mark, I mean everyone. The fact interactions will change is obvious, but when using examples like, “Ten years from now, someone, some company, or some organization, takes an interest in you, wants to know if you’ve ever said anything they consider offensive, or threatening…” but what the behavioral change Google Glass and the future iterations will bring about will change the way the organizations operate in 10 years. The foundations of how business and government operate will have to change to adapt this new reality. How we work, live, play will all change. I don’t know how it will all play out, but you are imparting current fears on future lifestyles and they don’t, won’t, and can’t mesh.

  67. Great article. It strikes me as even more worrying when we know that the technology for LCD contact lenses that could display digital information right onto our eyes is already being developed.
    “The technology isn’t available yet for commercial applications, but its developers say we could be reading text messages, emails, and driving directions on our eyes within five years.”

    • airmanchairman says:

      “The effect on crime will be dramatic”

      Petty crime, street crime, industrial espionage, undercover operation, fraud and what have you…

      If we think carefully about it, this facilitation of already existing technology has the potential to both hinder as well as help the execution of crime at a baffling number of levels…

      The ramifications are mind boggling, and consider that they will still be way off the mark compared to what eventually emerges with hindsight.

  68. Personally, I am looking forward to getting Google Glass. I really think one of the benefits of being potentially recorded all the time (which is already happening) is that people might behave better. Nobody wants a viral video clip of themselves being a jerk or rude to people. It’s a shame that people wouldn’t want to change for the better just to be better, but the fear of being caught being a jerk would motivate them. Sad, but hopefully effective.

  69. This also has a huge impact on the future of what are now considered ‘safe’ spaces – Doctor’s offices, clinics, AA meetings just to start with. Outing someone becomes easier, stalking someone becomes easier, recording who is entering abortion clinics – all done via Glass video. Any activity a person does that is witnessed by someone else would suddenly be open to indexing by Google, not to mention what wearers of Glass choose to post publicly themselves.

  70. johntheGREENE says:

    Solid article and not far out at all.
    Identity theft anyone?
    Couldn’t be easier to store any secure information with a single glance.
    SSI#, signature, DL, Passport, or any other sensitive info. And google will have it all.

    • I had the same thoughts, anyone could swipe your credit card number and potentially your identity with what the glass could capture.

  71. Brett Ludwig says:

    This is our generation’s concern, but not the next’s. When everyone is used to being recorded all the time, people will have to become more accepting that everyone fucks up constantly – I think this will create more understanding and transparency. As long as lawmakers keep up with it, this is just the transitional device to a new generation where privacy is no longer a concern.

    • I feel that assuming good behavior will come of public recording is pretty naive — there are plenty of cases where online real-name use has utterly failed to prevent people from being horrible, and a trip to any shopping mall on a Saturday will give you evidence that having an audience doesn’t prevent bad behavior, either.

      I’ve noticed a lot of “crime will disappear!” responses to the subject, but this is overlooking the main thrust of the article. Crime might disappear, or be lessened, but that could be accomplished with non-Glass recording tech. The main thrust of the fear here is the permanence of Glass-based recordings (Google’s servers) and the potential for analysis (Google’s analytics being able to link it to your real name and online identity).

      Picture this: You are in a restaurant with friends, celebrating someone’s birthday. Everyone’s having fun, there are presents being opened and appetizers passed around. You’re all making jokes and enjoying yourselves.

      Did you notice the person two tables over has a small “recording” light on his glasses?

      Is every single joke you tell so inoffensive that you’d be okay with your boss hearing it? Is every discussion you have with your friends is so innocuous that it can’t be clipped of context and put on the Web with your real name attached? (Shirley Sherrod comes vividly to mind here.) When you walk by that other table at the restaurant on your way to the restroom, the wearer isn’t turning or following you to record your body?

      Moreover: Are you 100% sure that your ex isn’t looking for blackmail material? That the stalker or abuser you got a restraining order against hasn’t gone looking for details about you online?

  72. John W. Ratcliff says:

    Actually, this topic is talked about quite a bit in the ‘lifelogging’ community. I have come to believe that the concern here can largely be characterized as somewhat ‘anti-luddite’. Technology is changing the world, and I think there is about as much chance of stopping wearable computing as there was of stopping the car from replacing the horse and buggy. It’s going to happen, so it’s best to just deal with it.

    There is a point that the lifelogging community makes that I find particularly compelling, and the point is in observing the simple fact that we are all already being surveilled all the time anyway. We can’t walk a few steps hardly anywhere in the world any more, certainly not in an urban environment, without being constantly tracked by hundreds of cameras (owned by the government and corporations). Having ‘wearable’ computing gives us a chance to surveill them back; one could almost argue it as a civil liberty right.

    Look what’s happened in Russia with the dash-cams everyone is now using. That was in defense and provides personal accountability. The simple fact of the matter is that people are already being filmed everywhere they go by countless governments and corporations, it’s better to fight for the right of individuals to ‘film back’ than it is to worry about any further infringement.

    Now, so far, I’ve only talked about video/pictures. What is not so clear is audio-recording as there is already well established law on the topic of ‘wire-tapping’. We have numerous laws on the book about recording other parties without their permission. In this area I think there are going to be some real growing pains.

    However, on the topic of individuals being able to ‘surveil’ their own environment, I think that is a largely positive and inevitable development. As things stand today, people already can do this with their cell phones, things like Project Glass and life-loggers just make it a bit more inconspicuous to do the same. If you Google ‘lifelogging’ and ‘surveillance’ you will find many articles on this topic.

    • John, I think you meant to say that this is characterized as a “Luddite” approach. I, on the other hand, choose to characterize your argument as the “lie back and enjoy it” argument, and thereby give it all the respect it deserves.

  73. If you enjoy speculative science fiction, I recommend reading Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge. He presents the future world of the year 2025 in which your contact lenses are reality-resolution-capable displays – and required in large part to properly interact with the world in what we’d refer to as augmented reality today. You can choose not to use them, but you’re basically handicapped at that point.

    It’s interesting in part because there’s no implicit demonstration that it’s naturally harmful, despite the massive potential for it. Rather, and realistically I think, it’s accepted as natural and taken for granted by the average joe.

    I rather enjoyed the concept of a near-future world, though I think perhaps the year 2025 is a bit early for his world.

    • airmanchairman says:

      I can’t wait to read all the good new futuristic thriller stuff being feverishly written even as we blog, like:

      § A villain decapitated at the peak of the story plot by a quadricopter drone missile homing in to his/her Google Glasses via an OS protocol;

      § A protagonist thwarting a clandestine public assassination by activating everyone’s Google Glasses, shouting “OK, Glass!” through a public Tannoy loudspeaker in the nick of time…

      And so forth…

  74. Jenna Dixon says:

    I’d love to read the whole piece but the line lengths are fixed at too long a length. After a couple of paragraphs y aging eyes had had it. Typography, anyone?

    Sorry if this sounds at all snarky–

  75. steve wright says:

    Fantastic read.

    Reminds me of a great book by Arthur C Clarke and Stephen Baxter, ‘the light of other days’. Slightly different tech (video cameras connected to time portals) but in that society completely changes – the man on the street, or more specifically the man on the street who grows up with the technology prevalent in society, accepts that everything he does could be seen by someone else, so just gets over it and stops worrying about it.

    Cue end to all crime, and people shagging in the streets.

    Would still rather Google didn’t control it though!

    • airmanchairman says:

      “Would still rather Google didn’t control it though!”

      That, sir, added to the lingering “dorkiness” of the thing in its present incarnation PLUS the lack of the “one more thing” killer factor are the reasons why I won’t be lining up for this gadget any time soon.

  76. Why has NO ONE cited the significant body of studies on heads up displays that demonstrated looking at information superimposed on windshields is a significant divided visual attention issue where users do NOT notice events occurring at further focal points in the real world when focused on near -in overlayed text. Classic visual perception experiments showed you could have a human-in-gorilla suit walk past unnoticed (or in cockpits simulators objects crossing your path).

    • airmanchairman says:

      Fighter pilots use HUDs quite happily.

      Good Airmanship requires constant scanning, vigilance and “lookout” as a habitual multi-tasking skill…

    • @airmanchairman When Google Glass users get as much training as fighter pilots, I’ll concede the relevance of your point.

  77. And this is exactly where open source comes in: in the same way first computers were dominated by MS-DOS/OS2/Apple, and there was “no way out”, a movement will appear that will let people “jailbreak” their GoogleGlass and install an open source OS (I know that probably GoogleGlass will run Linux which is already open source, but with an open source OS here I mean is the full software stack open source: even the servers it will connect to).

    • airmanchairman says:

      Good point, sir.

      Therein may lie the source code for the checks and balances needed to counteract the downsides of this new tech…

  78. Fail Tech Is Fail says:

    This needs to be banned and Google needs to be sued for their outrageous attempt to invade privacy.

    There are WAY too many idiots out there that will abuse the heck out of this and a LOT of people’s lives are going to be ruined.

  79. I don’t get the hullaballoo here.

    People who want to record you in public can already do so without you knowing at any time via a multitude of devices — let alone all the security cameras and web cams set up all over the place.

    Scaremongering a promising new product with talk of things that are already an issue in the digital age leaves me wondering the motivations here…

    • Ah, nevermind. The motivations are clear after a little bit of digging.

      Many Apple-fans naturally will hate and FUD this product, because it’s not something their guys came up with.

  80. I don’t really see the issue.

    Example – I was watching Law and Order: SVU. There was a detective having a conversation with the sister of his colleague in a restaurant. He was playing with his phone, saying that his daughter texted him, but really he was turning on a voice recorder.

    We already have technology on us all that can record each other. In fact, I grew up in the UK and have actually had times when the widespread CCTV has been a really good thing (however in the case of one example, it won’t bring one of my school friends back after being murdered, but at least the perpetrators are in prison and unable to harm anyone else, the footage also helped bring a focus on the severity of knife crime, so hopefully it did help others).

    Gruber seems worse than you with his fleeting sentences of how he hopes Glass is banned, though.

  81. I can get a radar jammer for my car… How do I get a google glass jammer? Would an infrared emitter near my face obstruct its Facial Recognition abilities?

  82. After all these false police testimonies and arrests from the Occupy movement, I can’t wait for this to become popular.

  83. In our niche corner of human culture, self defense, it has already, years ago when phones with cameras became prevalent, changed the very nature of self defense strategy and tactics.

    When analyzing the nature of our activities when recorded we came up with the term Exposed recorded action to depict a different category of human behavior that will effect us not only in my field, personal security and martial arts, but will be a cataclysmic shift.

    I fully agree with Mark Hurst, the consequences of this shift will be unpredictable. When a personal God was watching it could be turned of by the psyche, when everybody will be watching and remembering forever it will change our society.

  84. Nice article, indeed I think google glass will change our lives, but in a good way I think. No one will do or say anything stupid in public. That’s great.
    Plus, think of a lot op apps developers could build for this new device. Apps that will improve our lives.

  85. Waqas Ahmed says:

    Everyone will have a G+ account and can have their privacy settings WHO can record them permanently or only can fetch simple information or G+ profile of you. Like I can set My family circle can record my audio/video permanently but not my university fellows they can just look me through glass and will have nothing of me after I leave.

    • That’s no solution – it forces you to be part of Google+. If it ain’t opt-in, it’s coercion.

    • Exactly what Scott said – I don’t see that “voluntarily give Google even more information about me” is a valid solution to my concern that Google is collecting information information about me without my consent!

  86. Andy Burgess says:

    It’s all getting spookily like Deamon and Freedom by Daniel Suarez. It’s the start of a new world!

  87. All these fears & anxieties were predicted in the film The Final Cut with Robin Williams & Jim Caviziel. In that scenario people have an embedded Zoe chip from birth which records everything they see & hear until they die. People who are against them go to great lengths to “disrupt” them. It’s from about 5 years ago but extremely prescient.

  88. The author of this little missive is a paranoid Orwellian stooge.

    Get over yourself, kid. Life ain’t private anymore. Cameras are everywhere. Sound recorders are everywhere. And don’t consider coming to one of the 12 states with one-party secret recording laws (like mine – Tennessee) because you don’t even have to KNOW you’re being recorded here.

    Take your “1984” nonsense and shove it, kid. This isn’t the 20th century anymore.

    Brian Paone

  89. The Sanity Inspector says:

    There’s an old Gahan Wilson cartoon from the 70s, featuring downcast pedestrians walking along with hologram advertisements always projected in the air right in front of their faces. Scary to think that this might be coming true.

  90. My wife put it very well when I read her a portion of the article: “It’s not the user experience – it’s the used experience.”

  91. Mirko Predosin says:

    I for one welcome the transparency that will come from ordinary citizens wearing Google glasses. Law enforcement and/or law breakers will think twice now.

  92. What makes you think that all security camera recordings will always be erased periodically? The technologies making storage cheap for Google will also make storage cheap for the owners of security cameras. There will be more and more of those security cameras as the prices for them fall, along with storage. There will be endless footage, owned by big corporations and governments, without the input of a single Google Glass.

    But the important thing here is that the cheaper storage technologies will also make it possible for individuals to keep their own private copy of what they captured with Google glass.

    For me Google Glass (and other similar devices which will come from the competition) is an enabling technology which makes it possible for individuals r communities to gather their own endless stream of the world, to fight back against the closed streams of security cameras.

  93. Mark:

    The question of “how will we live when we are always being watched” has been answered by various societies in many ways throughout history. We forget that it was only 100 years ago that most people in north american society were raised to believe that every one of our actions, thoughts and even intentions were recorded permanently and stored in a “ledger” for which we would, some day, have to give an account. Living with an omnipresent “watcher” is something people CAN and HAVE adapted to. It was called religion- then. So, it will be called Google- now. The name is not the issue. The reality is that some people will choose to care and they will adopt the “historical” virtues of modesty, propriety, prudence, temperance, patience, gentleness and the like. Others will live the way that they want to and deal with “Google Hell” when it comes. Literature, you know-stories that people have actually recorded with thought and consideration- is replete with every iteration of lifestyles between the “sinner” and the “saint”. So, pick a hero and follow her path. For me, the most interesting question will be how Google-or the priests thereof- will manipulate mass behaviour through the promise of Google Heaven and Google Hell…whatever they are. As for me, I always live like I’m being watched so I am looking forward to Google Heaven.

    • Paul, your metaphor is – in the most serious sense – infinitely flawed. The religious perspective of which you speak presumes that the information thus gathered is accessible only to a god of infinite wisdom, love, justice, and mercy, who will act accordingly on it, mostly after you’re dead. None of this applies to the humans behind Google Glass, or who might make use of the information it gathers.

  94. it is my conviction that google glass (and its progeny) will be more disruptive to human society than the gutenberg press.

    it doesn’t really matter how we talk about it; it will roll over us with the force of history, like an atomic bomb used killing a gnat.

    this is not to say we SHOULDN’T talk about it.

  95. The tracking aspect in combination with your theories makes it a little eerie. Not having a cellphone right now, means that you are generally invisible to such things, but the face recognition and video capabilities really highlight the change that is coming.

  96. “The Google Glass feature no one is talking about?” More like “The Google Glass feature no one is talking about, because it doesn’t exist.”

    This isn’t a new idea. The problem is not with the Glass but of the idea that your data is not your own but instead belongs to Google. The Glass turns this idea from merely inconvenient to universally life-altering.

    The solution is simple: Make your data belong to you again, and do it universally. The question is whether or not there will be the necessary outcry to make it so. Right now people don’t quite grasp the ramifications of having your data belong to a megacorp.

    Things could be dangerous for a while because the public’s understanding of technology tends to lag behind the widespread adoption of that technology… but ultimately there’s no reason why that understanding will remain there forever. (Unfortunately I suspect that the first outcry won’t lead to a reform on data-collection legislation so much as a blanket ban of these kinds of devices but there you go)

    • I think 90% of his issues would still be issues if Google Glass data was owned by the person wearing the Glass.

  97. Not only does this invade our private lives, but it allows some wacko to stream live a shopping mall or some kindergarten class as they do the unthinkable. All in the name of technology that most of us can do without.

  98. Excellent article. These exact thoughts have been popping up in my head for quite some time now. And as much as I consider the marvels of tech evolution and revolution, so much do I shiver with the realisation of the end of our society as we have known it. Truly, now, it is a shame how smoothly we reach the brink of complete exposure and at the same time, we march towards it like bewitched creatures… The days of a new era are very close… and ww will not like it…

  99. What’s a person’s defense against fake or altered recordings? In a sense it’s less about how difficult it is to manufacture this new version of “truth” than about how difficult it is to detect that manufacturing. And even then, the detection can be simply dismissed as paranoia or lies. Whose recordings are “acceptable” and whose are not? If instead of Google, you choose to have your LifeRecord(tm) videos stored by a private service in Antigua, would they be barred as evidence because your country’s system has decided they’re not “trustworthy” (ie they won’t provide backdoors to their files)?

    People accept things so easily if they appear to come from “the computer”. Printed emails, for pete’s sake – like those have any necessary basis in anything.

    It sure seems like the Glass won’t be the only thing getting framed…

  100. I have thought about your article and it makes sense. If google wants to succeed with their product they have to address these issues. Here are some simple solutions that REALLY SHOULD add to their product.

    Google glass is the first of it’s kinda. It will probably not make it to main stream I would guess. People would think how neat it is, but a persons image is more important then their phone. It won’t be until they make a sleek design that it becomes mainstream. Ex. Think of smart phones. Black berry’s had been out for years, and everyone thought they were cool and awesome but not a lot of people had them, why? Because it wasn’t until the sleeker iPhone that came out that everyone needed a smartphone. Google Glass will be the black berry of “virtual reality”.

    Constant video-
    A lens cap. If every time they wanted to record a video they had to remove a lens cap then people wouldn’t be paranoid about being recorded. Judging from how big of an issue this “unknown video recording” is becoming, google must address it, and it can be solved by a simple lens cap.
    I also want to mention that surveillance cameras are different then personal video recordings. Surveillance cameras are not streamed to the internet, they aren’t pointed directly at your face, and no one really watches them unless something bad happens in them. That fear of being judged by some video is something that needs to be addressed.

    Constant audio-
    This is a bad argument and I feel was triggered by the paranoia associated with the video. No one is paranoid about that guy wearing a blutooth headset recording them… i hope. The audio recording on Google glass will be the same as wearing a blutooth headset.!

    Google glass is pretty much a blutooth headset that now records video and displays that little notification bar on your phone to your glasses all for 1500$! It will save to your phone, make calls with your phone, and get data from your phone.

    -It’s not going to be cool until it’s sleek. It will be the blackberry of virtual reality
    -Video capture paranoia can be solved with a simple lens cover (it can slide over and back)
    -Audio recording and saving can be done with blutooth headsets and no one is scared of that.

  101. Peter pottinger says:

    Not concerned at all. Virtual, augmented reality, wearable and embedded devices are not only the future, but also the way forward for humanity and our evolution.

    The author imagines himself from the future, but he is hopelessly stuck in the past, with limited vision of the future.

    I’m not saying THIS single product will be that solution, but it will be a catalyst to propel ourselves into the future. If you look at it generationally it is easy to see how A/R will change our society much like the printing press or the personal,computer, or the Internet has.

    Never before has information been freer and easier to access. Our children are growing up with access to this wealth of information via tablets and soon wearable and embedded devices.

    Brace yourself because it IS coming. You can choose to resist by screaming at the top of your lungs how the world is ending or you can ride the wave and enjoy the evolution.

  102. Em, what is happening? Google re-packages augmented reality goggles into a supposedly “new” product and people start writing articles about how “no one” is talking about privacy issues in public space? Well yeah, no one since the 90’s when this type of goggles were hot potatoes and this kind of debate was taking place. Steve Mann anyone? Gosh it’s like I’ve stepped into the Twilight Zone and was beamed back 20 years ago. Here’s a tip, if you want to know what solutions there are to this issue and what problems can’t be resolved, just read articles from that era instead of re-inventing the wheel. Seriously, kids these days.

  103. I would love it if someone tech-savy would, in response to this, create something that could “shield” you from being recognized/recorded.

  104. Matt Landeg says:

    The effects of crizzling could be long term and effect integrity of todays social structure… 🙂

  105. Well u can’t hide from the future something like this was bound to happen wether today or 1000 years from now,
    I really don’t care mush if am being recorded, maybe people in the future won’t be so scared of being on camera and maybe people will lern to behave because they know they are being watched, crime could stop intirely, who knows!

  106. I actually can’t wait, am a bit of a geek so I’m interested on the apps that can potentially change things around me, I know that the glass won’t be as cool at first, but imagine when it’s upgraded to the point were were u go buy stuff online and u can actually see what u are buying in 3d in the real world and inspect it like if it was right in your face, that’s cool, or play vertual reality games we’re u pic up a toy gun and start killing monsters inside your house, imagin that!,

  107. “We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”

  108. I call them Google’s Creepy Stalker Spectacles. Been posting on all sorts of blogs that it will fail. Nobody wants to be around a person wearing those glasses because he just might be photographing/videoing you. He’s not getting into my house or even peek past an open front door. He’s certainly not going to be talking to my daughter. If he shows up at the local girls gymnastics meet, he will be met with torches and pitchforks. Once Google Glass’s capabilities become widely known any person wearing those will be an automatic social outcast wherever he goes. And places that do not allow people to take unauthorized videos will ban anyone wearing these creepy stalker specs. There’re a lot of them starting with health clubs, banks, military installations, airports, and don’t forget, schools.

  109. Excellent article.Google glass can be put to some great use specially with respect to security … but its too much of an infringement on one’s provacy

  110. Alfred Chubb says:

    This is simply another dis embedding mechanism which will evolve social interaction and come with its own mores around usage as facebook/twitter/mobile/telephone/newspaper/paper/paint/song – the conspiracy theory is also deeply flawed.
    How the information is stored and used is to be decided and regulated but it’s just a more effective way of capturing the same information that’s already captured and used already. Positively it will reduce opportunistic violent crime, destroy the need for business cards, remind me of the names of my aunt’s children at Christmas drinks, improve my ability to give medical assistance at a roadside accident or land a plane after terrorists are overcome but not before they have dispatched the cabin crew, give me the ‘book’ odds while I play blackjack, capture better meeting minutes, facilitate my son’s homework by reviewing their class, make more interesting small talk with objects of my desire AND give my friends the opportunity to watch me be shot down in flames. I’m sure the things need a light so you know when they’re recording but that’s only for a short while until you get comfortable with the idea of everything being recorded and clandestine meetings/conversations taking place without Glass. Does the fact that most of your business related phone calls are recorded prevent you from making them? If you want to read some entertaining books that go to the next level on this subject i recommend Daniel Suarez’ DAEMON – that’s something to worry about no matter which camp you’re in.

  111. Great read! I’ve been really excited to get my hands on Glass and I look forward to the supposed launch later this year. Like you mentioned, I’ve just been thinking of all the cool things I will be able to do and the possible apps that I hope to be able to design. Thanks for showing me the other train of thought, the others’ experience.
    Your illustration of the problem gave me a few chills and made me rethink the consequences of this new technology. However, like all problems, a solution will be found. The laws will change(hopefully) to protect people’s privacy. Techniques will be implemented to show those on the other side of Glass that they are being recorded(such as an obvious light or indicator that must turn on by law when recording) and hopefully there will be some transparency about what gets recorded and by whom(ie if you get “tagged” you can allow it or deny, similar to the control we have on Facebook).
    We will most likely see the problem you propose, but like all new technologies, measures will be taken to at least give people some feeling of control over their privacy. I doubt it will turn out like the wild west of the information age.

    • exactly my thoughts when I was reading the article. Brooker’s take on an integrated recording device is pretty accurate, at leats in my prospective anyway.

  112. We have so much video of the Chelybinsk bolide because so many Russians are routinely recording their vehicle journeys. I told it is because they fear the effects of not having any evidence if they should be in a road accident.

    I’ve been in a road accident, and seeing how the Police and the lawyers have behaved, that reason doesn’t seem so extreme.

    So don’t be surprised if people want to wear Google Glass, to give them at least some chance of presenting a court with video evidence. But where would the bandwidth be for that cloud storage. I can see the tech as a way of presenting the sort of local information that is in Google Earth and Google Streetview, but is there ever going to be enough bandwidth?

    How many bits per second can we rely on, when we’re walking down a city street?

    Google Glass may, I hope, be the last gasp of the greedy internet, where mass use of streaming video has run headlong into the laws of physics.

  113. I am still unable to read anything on how the G-Glass will be deployed: will the OS be a sandboxed set where you you *must* use G services to have anything running on the device or will developers be free to make use of some open (Android?) SDK and deploy their own services on their own terms in their own sandboxes?

    If Google were to sandbox it, the scenario set in this story could become a reality, but it is not, I don’t see automagic recording, speech2text etc happening like this.

    Are there any specs out there on G-Glass yet?

  114. A good point to raise but the article is undermined somewhat by your hyperbole. In the opening paragraph it’s something no-one, *no-one* is talking about, then it’s something (almost) no-one is talking about… What’s it do be. At least be internally consistent in one piece.

  115. I have nothing against this specific incarnation of wearable computing. Eventually, it’ll be a contact lens, an implant, something full-powered, fully-connected and totally concealed.

    Who’s going to allow you in a casino? What employer is going to trust you near any recordable client personal information? Won’t most exams, like the SAT, the LSAT, etc, be obsolete?

    It seems this type of augmentation would cast doubt on just about any human activity involving memory, factual or physical information.

    For privacy, the potential for abuse is completely off the charts. Just think about the fallout the first time someone starts selling high school locker room videos.

    Just as bad, what if an app presents you false information, for whatever its ends, whether it’s selling you something, engineering your consent… I’m thinking back to the days of subliminal advertising in television.

  116. So perhaps with the advent of this technology, people won’t be so upset when we pull out our old 35mm camera and try to snap a few photos at the family picnic or train station? Honestly, I don’t know what people are so afraid of being captured on record. Is it really that scary for someone to have a record of what you did, or what you said in a public place? These days a lot of people are so vane and obsessed with their low self-image, that they can’t stand to be photographed. It’s kind of crazy, actually. The technology to discretely film and photograph with hidden cameras has existed for many decades now. Most of us have already been recorded without our knowledge. This is just a little more obvious. Some people love this sort of thing, just for the purpose of being confrontational or getting attention. So I welcome it, if it means that aunt Gladice won’t have a sissy fit every-time I try to snap off a few photo’s at the family events. And no auntie, your soul won’t be swallowed up by the magical sorcerer living inside of the glowing black box.

  117. Something that stuck out at me throughout the reading of this article is how dismissive people can get to be given the amount of recording of people on the web with this.

    For example, let’s say you’re interviewing people for a job, and you look into this best applicant. You consider things he’s said, or even things he has done, and then you think to yourself “well I’ve done just as bad on google glass so it’s no big deal” and you forget about it.

    I just think people that aren’t idiots will be able to treat this technology well and make it a positive more than the idiots in this world make it a negative.

    For instance, people could choose to have their lives uploaded for others’ viewing, and this would easily be very interesting. What’s it like to be a farmer? *watch video* What’s it like to be a scientist? *watch video*

    The negatives will come in such buttloads, and since no one will be able to avoid having looked bad at some point in time, everyone will be dismissive of it. “I’ve called someone an n* word so why should I condemn this kid for saying ****”.

  118. William Barnett-Lewis says:


    David Brin’s been writing about all of these issues since 1990? And you all act like it’s something unheard of?

    Pick up Earth or Existence sometime and see what others have thought about the topic.

    It’s not sliced bread and it’s not grey goo disaster. Chill.

  119. If you think such a thing as privacy exists anyway, you’re pretty naive. This project doesn’t change anything. You have no idea who is recording you and when they’re doing it. Saying you’re afraid because these videos are stored on google’s servers doesn’t make any sense because the videos go straight to your phone via Bluetooth — not into the cloud.

  120. Steve Miller says:

    Dear Mr. Hurst,

    you are underestimating the power of self-regulation. History shows, that possible dangers will be overcome by other means. A few examples:

    INTERNET: Before the Internet was widely available in Europe and the US, “Experts” pointet out, that with the internet it would be easy for criminals to hack into your computer, place “trojans”, steal your data, or simply make it easier for Computer-Viruses to spread around the world. These dangers still exist today, but Anti-Virus-Programs and Firewalls give enough porotection to the mojority of the users, even though a professional hacker can hack into any system. But the advantages of the Internet simply outweigh its dangers.

    MUSIC: In 1908, when the first “Grammophons” (early record-player) were available, “Experts” predicted the downfall of the music-industry. Until then, every time you wanted to listen to music, you had to visit a concert. With the eraly record-player it was possible to listen to recorded music, without ever attending to a concert. “Experts” were wrong: Within a century the music-industry turned into a multi-billion-Euro/Dollar business.

    HORSE-POO: In the beginning of the 20th century, people got wealthier, and were able to afford a horse. “Experts” predicted, that soon cities would be overcrowded with horse-poo. Things turned out different! That CO2 is more dangerous than poo is a different story.

    DATA-STORAGE: How many minutes of video can be recorded with Google Glasses? 10 Minutes? 30 Minutes? Not enough to record your whole day. Although the Google commercial shows HD-Video, I highly doubt that the video really shows the quality you can expect from Google Glasses.

    UPLAOD INTO THE CLOUD: Great idea. Your service provider will charge you for every byte transmitted. So you better think twice before uploading nonsense.

    BATTERY POWER: Everyone using BlueTooth knows that this is very power-consuming. I do not know anyone whose battery can afford using BlueTooth the whole day. Our current technology simply does not allow it to use “extras” like BlueTooth and recording for a longer time.

    TETHERING: If you need to link your smartphone with your glasses, which is very likely, that will be another hurdle. Just think of BlueTooth Headsets for your phone. Sounds like a great idea, but I personally did not use it too much, because it is both power-consuming and an extra efford.

    Relax. When that happens, there will be technologies to secure your privacy.
    EVEN IF NOT, there are simple ways to make it less attractive to (for example) record your busdrive (or whatever).
    For example the length of the videos could easily be limited, for example to let’s say 90 seconds. After this time there could be a “cool down” period of 30 seconds before you can start a new video. Of course that can be overcome by hacking the software, but for the majority of the people that will be a hurdle big enough to refrain from taking videos unless it is really important (or funny).

    This post is pretty long now, but I hope I could make my point. I agree that “new technology” brings new dangers, but history shows that these dangers are often over-estimated.

    • Steve Miller says:

      Excuse my typos, it is early in the morning and I have to go to work now, so I did skip my “control reading” 🙂

  121. Great piece.

    The problem, as I think Mark realises but might not be clear at first reading, is NOT Google Glass.

    What Mark describes is already happening in other media (Gmail, facebook et al) are all part of a creeping, nee steamrollering, growth of mass 24/7 surveillance.

    What is staggering is how *little* recognition or concern there has been so far. Alas, Google Glass won’t change this apathetic sleepwalking of the masses into a distopian world not unlike George Orwell’s 1984.

    Those of us who were concerned enough to think about this for the last twenty years thought we’d escaped “Big Brother”, especially and the year 1984 came and went. But no, he was there in the shadows all along, and now has cast the net over us and is slowly hauling it in.

    The only escape is to change our culture from one which respects money and corporate rights, to one which places human values and human rights at the forefront.

    The first step to this is recognition, the medicine I propose is transparency and accountability. Debating one technology, one brick in this dire path, is just a distraction. So forget the pro’s and con’s of the current manifestation, the most frightening threat of the moment and instead mobilise on the things that are allowing this to happen in the first place, and which provide the momentum that will not be derailed by the success or failure of one commercial venture.

    Make your voice heard about the things you fear *losing* and make sure those values are primary, because if they are anything but the top priority of the society you create, they *will* be lost.

    Mark (in London)

  122. Is this the perfect “stalkers” product, social acceptable to wear, imagine all the inappropriate places to video, Standing in the public toilets at the urinal, changing rooms ( god forbid with children around)! Hidden spy cameras are always available, but still unlikely, It is fairly easy to spot someone video recording with a smartphone, so should Google glass be banned from being worn in areas of personal privacy issues. If you are at work and wearing Google glass for work, should you need to wear a badge announcing cctv coverage, as needed in public buildings that use cameras?

  123. Uncool glasses are quite a cultural thing. In India, it’s okay to be a studious dork because it means you’re smart. Who knows though, when such tech will be easily available/affordable over here. Hopefully never.

    What I find really scary is the fact that perverts and stalkers can misuse this so easily. With smart phones its already tough, because you don’t know when someone has secretly taken a picture of you. You can still watch for people raising their phone towards you, etc. With these glasses it would make it impossible to tell. G. Glasses would automatically = creep.

  124. September Forever says:

    I can already see the anti-glass gangs motivated by this sentiment. If it is not in your face, it’s O.K. Go hide and pretend global surveyance has not happened yet then.

    what is in a name anyway.

  125. Awesome article. It’s 1984, only three decades late.

    All the ones out there who “trust” the govt. and “trust” Google (a huge megacorporation; usually something youngsters don’t trust) are so cute. So naive, so gullible, so willing to be led by the nose without having to think for themselves. Also, so willing to trample on others’ Constitutional rights to privacy. But tell them to pack up their filthy tent and quit crapping on the sidewalk, and they have a cow over their rights being trampled.

    History teaches smart people to assume that having enormous power over everyone’s words and deeds will be too much for a heavy-handed govt or a giant corp to resist.

    I love the guy who put, if you don’t like your every word and act being in am instantly transcribable, searchable database, “then you don’t need to be here.” The blitheness chilled me to the bone. Wonder if he prefers the new trendy virus extermination method, or the trusty, reliable gas chambers for the elimination of us dissenters. That, my friends, is what we’re looking at. End game. “Mark” my words.

  126. Fantastic device, now you can not only love Big Brother but you can become it . Very Borgian-assimilatory vista of the things to come . At least we’ve been spared from Shoggoths, or have we ?

  127. Google Glass is just the first instance of this emerging technology. The question is not how to prevent it as so many commenters here seem to want to do, it is inevitable, the question is how to deal with it in a free society.

    • I meant to say the first instance of this emerging technology to gain world wide penetration.

  128. There’s a lot of high quality conspiracy discussion that one of the key agendas of the power elite is transhumanism. I’m talking about the kind of known liars who sell us war, exploit our energy, tap our creativity, portrays us as violent and aggressive apes in movies and video games and never point out that the most incredible technology is our unadulterated DNA. It’s so complex that the so called junk DNA that materialist science couldn’t understand is being understood as far more crucial than before. Ever noticed how materialist science has weird names for important things like dark mattter, junk dna and punctuated equilibrium in evolution. Just saying folks. Transhumanism is rarely all that groovy.

  129. I’m really not looking forward to always-on broadcasts of millions of other citizens’ “Duck Dynasties” videos broadcast 24×7. If you ever thought we had a filter problem now, just imagine when everyone is wearing Google Glass? Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrggggggghhhhhh.

  130. Sundarraj Kaushik says:

    Just imagine if you could sneak a Google glass to just one person in the Al Queda and likewise just one person in all terrorist groups. Is it not worth it? Will a mugger not think twice before mugging? Will a rapist not think twice before raping? Will a frustrated person not curse if she is frustrated enough? Do you want to do things or tell things that you do not want others to watch or hear?

  131. I think the best model for this is the matrix. Anyone can be converted to an Agent Smith just by having the authorities activate their glasses. Eventually wearing glasses will be mandatory, and enthusiastically supported by the people, with the justification of reducing crime. People won’t worry about the state misusing this tremendous power of control. No matter how many people the government murders, the American people always find it inconceivable that the government could ever do anything bad. America has just always been a society of cattle ambling enthusiastically to the slaughterhouse.

  132. Reading these comments I fdon’t feel that we are really addressing the core issue which is around privacy. Any data about me, should not without my prior authorisation and full informed consent be shared with another party, and stored by another party. In other words any data captured about me should be accessible and used only be me however that infromation is captured, where that information is related to my identity.

    Were Google to store this sort of data, then under current EU Privacy legislation they would be committing an illegal act. The new 2014 legislation will get tougher still. The USA still has to sort this stuff out.

  133. Marcus Kirsch says:

    Finally, someone looking beyond the (over) hype of this thing. ‘Hey you with the glasses, are you recording me? Take the %&£# glasses off’ Its exponentially more aweful than a ringing mobile and a jawbone combined. ‘Take your glasses off when I speak to you!’ or ‘Bouncer: Take your glasses off inside, please’.
    Like so many social annoyances, it might actually succeed, but social experiences will be damaged for-ever. For more scenarios on this, read Snow Crash or Transmetropolitan, can’t say its not been discussed. Or try Gattaca potential partner analysis, face recoq style.

  134. Hi everyone. While it is arguable that the creation of mobile devices, in particular mobile phones which use strong radio wave signals to carry information has lead to the increase in cancers (especially brain cancers), is it surely not irresponsible of Google to invent something that is constantly attached to your head and doing likewise?

    I for one would NEVER consider wearing these atrocities (I am a glasses and contact lense wearer) for risk of 1) Cancer, 2) being attacked for looking like a jerk, and 3) losing my social skills as i try and log all the info being presented infront of me whist trying to hold a conversation.

    I would also wonder what the implications of having a pair stolen would be?! WHen a phone is stolen, it is damn annoying, but you can rely on at least a phone lock to keep intruders out. Goggle Specs look like a much less secure, more easy to steal version of your phone.


  135. I think the factor we’re failing to look at here is not so much who is recording us, but who is recording our children. This technology lends itself to stalkers, pedophiles, and child abductors. The ability to record and tag anyone allows them to mark targets and draw a dotted line to their home or school without even following them. Further more, those images and that information is now on an accessible database for any whacko to simple search through and find a target or victim. You don’t even have to have the glasses, just access to the Google website to search through. Just like FB how long before you can search via demographics and personal characteristics – picking a target at random!
    While I initially worried who would record me picking my nose or readjusting my underwear, the bigger picture is who is targeting my son or daughter. Much like the case of the teenager who was tracked by a stalker to her school based on a FB photo of her in her cheerleading outfit, this allows stalkers and abductors to ability learn intimate details about your children’s lives through the recording of them or their parents. Now all of a sudden they know details about places we’ve been and conversations we’ve had that gives them an air of familiarity when they approach their intended target…very scary!

  136. The one thing where the entire article breaks down is “without the Google Glass user even requesting it”.
    Nothing Google (or even others like facebook) has ever officially done crosses that line, why would this cross it?
    Google+ is a lot more clear about what is public and what is not than any other social media out there, Google knows they cannot step over that line and will defend it. There may have been inadvertent discretions (like the open wifi debacle which is way overblown) but nothing ever was company mandated.
    So yes you could be recorded by someone who may decide to make it public, just like you can now (camera’s in glasses already exist!) but Google will never do this without the user’s explicit permission (also considering the amount of storage this will be thousands if not millions of times more data than even Youtube and most of that data boring and without any benefit for Google whatsoever, it doesn’t even make economic sense to do this for Google).
    You’re creating a doom scenario that will never be realised just for stirring up the conspiracy theorists and you got your result.

  137. Google showed an interest in mapping …by collecting WiFi passwords, then it was self-driving cars and now glasses.
    Phones are almost banned when driving, but not glasses.
    This adds a visual element to a self-driving vehicle, for instance to recognise traffic lights, obstacles, other traffic and so on.

  138. Glenn Mercer says:

    I can foretell ONE impact of all this, for certain: in some B-grade TV crime show someday soon some villain on the phone with another villain, organizing a drug-deal down by the docks: “You come alone, you hear me? No weapons, no wires… and no Google Glasses!”

  139. End game could be a war between the individualists vs. the collectivists. The privacy hawks who see us all as individual organisms with rights to a personal life that is our own, vs. the ones who see us instead as mere organs, parts of a larger, vastly more important organism called “society” or “the people”. Of course in that view your brain, and hence whatever it thinks, are not important; only the Big Brain controlling the entire organism is. Call it Big Brother, Uncle Sam, or just the government. You want each of us to just accept the publicizing of our every fart as absolutely inevitable; we want you all to just accept the tech eventually being abused to enslave human beings as absolutely inevitable. We see your reply to that as being, in a nutshell:

    “Gee, Google’s never done anything before to invade our privacy; why would they ever?? And the govt is always reasonable and on OUR side, regardless of which party is in power, so…golly, not seein’ why all you tinfoil hatters are so worked up! Hilk hilk hilk! Mega corps and mega govts are just nothing to worry about. But instead, worry about CO2, a gas that comprises 0.04% of our atmosphere and that all plants need for life, making our oceans rise 20 ft and drown us all! Worry that the earth, which has survived volcanoes and being walloped by comets, asteroids, meteorites and even a planet (hello, moon) and thrived with abundance, is nonetheless somehow acutely “fragile”, about to be annihilated by little beings living on 3% of its surface! And the same govt that created AIDS to kill blacks, made the buildings fall on 9/11 and faked the moon landing…really respects you and your rights, and would never abuse this technology to control your life in any way! Chillax!”

    Just so cynical where it’s unwarranted, and so inconceivably, almost laughably naive where impending dangers could not be more obvious

  140. Thomas Cohn says:

    This world is run by Autistics. Hey, dorks, you can wear your glasses and block out the world all you want, but it’s never going away. Eventually, at some point, you are going to have to deal with it. Inventions like this make me think, just for a moment, that maybe The Unabomber was right. Another invention that caters and encourages malignant narcissism. Just what we need.


    Hi, we have noticed you don’t own or use a pair of Google Glasses, you don’t exist anymore .

  142. IR high-intensity led halo built into one’s own glasses / hat, and a cell phone jammer. Both are effective countermeasures to Glass?

  143. I’m shocked no one has mentioned sex yet. Unless you want that to be posted and searchable, make sure they are out of the bedroom when the magic happens.

  144. Eric sits down across the table from you. You can’t help but stare at his hands as he raises them to adjust his Google glasses.

    “Do you mind if I leave these on?” he asks in Mandarin. Confused, you take a quick glance around the room, wondering if you were the only person that heard the Chinese dialect in the restaurant.

    “Oh, I’m sorry” he says. “I forgot to turn off the translator.” Eric proceeds to stare you down through the lens of his “spectacles” while he waives his left hand in the air. A bright red light blinks next to his left eye. Your mind flashes back to childhood memories of a silver-bodied time traveled robot assassin that also has a red glow in its eyes.

    Midway through the first course, you realize that the person sitting across from you is the laziest person on the planet. During the first ten minutes of your dinner you’ve learned that a robot cut his hair, a faceless voice on his phone dictated his disposable wardrobe (which is auto-purchased monthly via Amazon and auto-deducted from his Google Account “credits” that he earns from blogging the shared dinner experience. His glasses automatically snap a vintage shot of the meal every 120 seconds), his car drove him to the restaurant (literally, THE CAR drove him, not himself) and the waiter had already pre-selected his meal based on his “Google profile” (vegan, gluten-free, no nuts, and two “shots” of his medicinal marijuana).

    Upon this realization, you stand up to get up from the table and notice that he is staring at your crotch. You step aside out of his field of vision and he keeps staring straight ahead. His head never turns.

    You look at her in the eye and smile at the attractive hostess while you palm her a $20 on your way out the door.

    It’s cold outside. You zip up your leather jacket, blow some warm air from your lungs into your cupped hands. Its nice to feel the rain, even though its very cold, on your cheeks. You decide to keep walking for a while – without any direction and without any destination. It feels good to stretch your legs. You like the hollow sound of your heels clicking and echoing on the city pavement. No Vibrams for you.

    The night is still young. Besides, your girlfriend will be home later and together you always figure out something fun on a whim.

    After feeling the city for about an hour on your stroll – you stop at the corner and buy a dozen roses – they smell really good as you put them up to your nose.

    “Would you like to pay with your Android and save 10%?” asks the clerk behind the counter.

    “Gimmie a pack of Marlboros.”

    You reach for your eel-skin wallet in your back pocket.

    “Can you break a hundred?”

    Life is better in the real world.

  145. weliveinpublic says:

    With all the images that “hover” virtually in front of the users’ retinas, there may be some unexpected consequences from long term use.

    Navin Johnson’s Opti-Grab (The Jerk) comes to mind.

    Bring on the class action lawsuits.

  146. Isaac Garcia wrote: “Life is better in the real world.”

    These seven words succinctly sum up the whole walk in the rain, Isaac. Excellent writing BTW, really. Don’t tell your editors, but you scarcely need them.

    I would just suggest that it’s unclear why it was important to separate your protagonist from readers along economic lines: maybe the guy can afford the most expensive cigs and wallet because he doesn’t waste money on techno-gadgets like Google Glass, a car, or an umbrella?) and that life is better in the real world even for those whose wallets are cowhide and who are smart enough not to smoke cigarettes. Being rich may make life better in the real world; smoking definitely does not, unless by “better” we mean “shorter” and “smellier”, which is seldom the case >:^D)

    Well done, thoughtful piece — thanx

  147. Remove the camera.

    Google Glass can still be Google Glass, but as a heads up display. Sans Camera.

    If I want a video I’ll use my phone or a tiny personal gopro or memoto, or lifeloop camera that I can then hookup to my phone (my pocket CRAY).

  148. Theodore Ts'o says:

    Even without Google Glass, many cell phones are automatically uploading photos as soon as they are taken. This is a feature which Dropbox supports, as does Google+/Picasa, etc. So it’s already the case that if people are automatically uploading photos with GPS coordinates, they could be searched by law enforcement types if they are trying to locate a terrorist in some public place such as Venice Beach, for example — this technique was used in a recent episode of NCIS Los Angelos by “the good guys”.

    So if you are worried about the mass correlation of pictures that are automatically uploaded to various web servers, that horse has already left the barn — and to the extent that many people are publicly releasing their photos on various photo sharing sites, it doesn’t even require getting search warrants or national security letters if you wanted to use this technique, combined with face recognition software, as part of a manhunt.

  149. The universal sousveillance aspect of google glass is the precisely the feature I MOST look forward to. This is why I want this to happen.

  150. In a world where this is the worst case scenario, what is the most realistic use google is going to make of this? They are going to analyze the clothes you wear, the food you eat and the things you say in order to create more direct advertise to every consumer. That’s it. Why is that a bad thing? I’m being absolutely serious. This is capitalism at its best. All everybody wants to do is make a buck. Google has no interest in you or the life you lead. It doesn’t care if you a saint or if you are racist, doesn’t care if your a dog person or cat person, what religion you are or where you were born. It only cares about your wallet and how it can get some of the contents therein. Anybody who thinks that google has too much information that they can use against a person is being narcissistic, because google does not care about you, you are not important enough as an individual. There are literally a hundred million more people exactly like you as far as google is concerned. So what are you worried about? That someone else can us this info to find you? Guess what. On this day an age, if someone wanted to find you, they can find you. Before google glass. You can be found in 20 minutes 15 years ago, 5 minutes today. Very very simply actually. There are a thousand ways because everybody leaves traces everywhere. That’s not a bad thing. It’s called progress. Guess what, if you are adamant about my being found, don’t have a phone, camera or any mark on this world. Remove yourself from society. Because I guarantee you, if you don’t do that, you can an will be found. Lucky enough nobody cares about you enough to look. Which, btw, is not a bad thing. Live life as full as you can and don’t look over your shoulder at imaginary cyber stalkers. You’ll be happier for it

  151. I think, we would need a masseive improvement in storage technology to have all our conversations or video stored and analysed in a store.

    Also improvement in networks if millions of google glass are uploading data constantly. Every network would be completely congested.

    For Google the costs outweight the benefits.

  152. Once upon a time we lived in small communities where everyone new everyone and everything, good and bad, about everyone else. In those days banishment and shunning were enough of a punishment to keep people courteous and nice.

    The population since then has exploded and so too has rudeness and inconsiderateness. Glass has the potential to eliminate this. If everything everyone does is watched. If everyone is always visible and easily located then the need to be considerate of those around you will be brought back into the world. If for no other reason then my commute to and from work Glass is a benefit to society. Not to mention the potential for doing away with the need to be armed.

  153. The only thing creepier than Google Glass is that people actually welcome the intrusion and gladly give up the remaining shreds of their individual liberty, while issuing incredibly naive, pollyanna banalities about how great it is and how mega-corps and mega-govts can so totally be trusted not to abuse it.

    Gonna go out on a limb and guess: out smoking something during history class

  154. The problem will not be Google Glasses – the problem is miniaturization. What if the camera was in the bluetooth headset or embedded in a button or collar and connected with the recorder’s cellphone? These services are coming – maybe they won’t be successful if someone like Google or Apple offers them.

    What if these type of miniature camera’s recording is helpful for disadvantaged people (like folk in Russia always have car cams to protect against traffic accident scams)- am sure it would lead to less cases of opportunistic muggings or assaults if the attacker knew of this possibility.

    As far as upload of data – it will always start small – maybe keywords uploads or maybe only location coordinates with reference to data on HDD or phones. People are now thinking of networks offering 100 GB movies so upload of compressed data will not be an issue at all.

  155. For the record; I think this stuff is inevitable, that society will adjust, and doesn’t bother me at all.

    I think it will cause the worst of us to improve our behaviour and that the rest of us will develop more tolerance for the behaviour of others. Overall I think this will improve society.

    Looking through these comments I can tell I’m nearly alone in my opinion.

  156. Bold prediction sir. Record every moment of waking life? How did you think of that?

    You actually think no ones discussed the reactions of those around Glass wearers?

    Its only a matter of time before you can’t detect a Glass wearer, and the anxiety goes away. You and everyone else will get quite used to it.

  157. “you don’t know if they’re taking a video of you.”

    Not sure about audio, but Google Glass has a blinking red light to indicate when it is recording video.

  158. Joshua Woods says:

    This guy obviously doesn’t know about the red recording light visible to everyone but the wearer. You will know if someone is recording. Still he makes some valid points.

  159. According to people like Alex Jones, Google is owned by the CIA.

    After reading this article, I have to admit that I do not have much reason to doubt his assertion.

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