Let’s start with something most of us can agree on: Google Glass looks ridiculous. They remind me of those thin headbands I used to wear when I was a kid, when they would slip down to the bridge of my nose and I would refuse to push them back up.
The head-mounted device is the latest vision of what a wearable computer should be. It comprises a small CPU, always-on data connectivity, a heads-up-display that lets the wearer see information in the top-right corner of their vision, a voice-activated interface similar to Apple’s Siri and perhaps most controversially, a tiny camera capable of recording audio, video and still images. Google Glass is capable of recording almost anything the wearer can see or experience.
Backlash against Google Glass has already started: the term “glasshole” has already been created for jerks who spend too much time talking to hardware on their face. (Sounds like an accessory written about in a Vonnegut or Bradbury novel where no one looks each other in the eye anymore and instead communicate through sub-dermal chips implanted in our necks.)
While a lot of the debate over Google’s hardware deals with the cosmetic issues, there’s much ado over privacy rights. This is nearly a prerequisite for all technological advances, but Google is taking it to a whole new level.
One of the eeriest features is the ability to record video, so for those around you who may not want their every moment immortalized, there isn’t much recourse. Cafes are already banning Google Glass because of this privacy issue.
Those privacy complaints people have against Facebook is nothing compared to this. At least on Facebook, users provide their information willingly, even if Facebook is a little Machiavellian over how they handle it. Google Glass doesn’t even provide that permission-barrier. It turns any moment with any person wearing the hardware into a potentially public experience.
And if you thought the incredible number of creepshots online is already excessive, buckle your seatbelt… it’s about to expand considerably.
Google Glass enables a kind of deviousness that goes far beyond what an individual can accomplish with a simple smartphone or tablet. At least when a woman’s privacy and space is being infringed upon, she can tell: there’s a stranger holding his iPhone up, focussing it and snapping a few pictures for his private use (or, worse, the entire internet). The problem was considered so bad even back in 2009, a bill was introduced in the U.S. that would have required every photo-capable phone to make a loud and obvious noise when a photo was taken. Google Glass doesn’t give you that kind of warning.
It’s like giving every crazy person who has a few hundred to spare on eyewear the abilities of RoboCop and nearly no way of policing it.
The creepshot-factor is just another modern-society problem that will exclusively affect women. If handled incorrectly (and if Google doesn’t figure out a way to make it a lot less creepy), the technology is bound to become another tool of harassment and intimidation for women and girls.
It may not be fair to blame Google for the ways people are going to use their technology, but if we’re able to predict it, we should at least try to find ways to safe-guard against it.
Above: Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google appear at the keynote with the Google Glass to introduce the Google Class Explorer edition during Google’s annual developer conference, Google I/O, on June 27, 2012 in San Francisco.
Image credit: KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/GettyImages