Privacy 'impossible' with Google Glass warn campaigners

Woman wearing Google Glass Widespread use of Google Glass could stifle freedom in civil society, campaigners warn

Related Stories

Google Glass and other augmented reality gadgets risk creating a world in which privacy is impossible, warn campaigners.

The warning comes from a group called "Stop the Cyborgs" that wants limits put on when headsets can be used.

It has produced posters so premises can warn wearers that the glasses are banned or recording is not permitted.

The campaign comes as politicians, lawyers and bloggers debate how the gadgets will change civil society.

"We are not calling for a total ban," one of the campaign workers called Jack told the BBC in a message sent via anonymised email service Hushmail.

"Rather we want people to actively set social and physical bounds around the use of technologies and not just fatalistically accept the direction technology is heading in," he wrote.

Based in London, the Stop The Cyborgs campaign began at the end of February, he said, and the group did not expect much to happen before the launch of Google Glass in 2014.

Personal privacy

However, the launch coincided with a push on Twitter by Google to get people thinking about what they would do if they had a pair of the augmented reality spectacles. The camera-equipped headset suspends a small screen in front of an owner and pipes information to that display. The camera and other functions are voice controlled.

Google's push, coupled with the announcement by the 5 Point Cafe in Seattle to pre-emptively ban users of the gadget, has generated a lot of debate and given the campaign a boost, he said.

Posters produced by the campaign that warn people not to use Google Glass or other personal surveillance devices had been downloaded thousands of times, said Jack.

Ban sign Stop The Cyborgs wants to spark debate about the use of augmented reality headsets

In addition, he said, coverage of the Glass project in mainstream media and on the web had swiftly turned from "amazing new gadget that will improve the world" to "the most controversial device in history".

The limits that the Stop The Cyborg campaign wants placed on Google Glass and similar devices would involve a clear way to let people know when they are being recorded.

"It's important for society and democracy that people can chat and live without fear that they might end up being published or prosecuted," it said in a manifesto reproduced on its website.

"We are not anti-technology," said Jack. "We just want people to realise that technology is a powerful cultural force which shapes our society and which we can also shape."

In a statement, Google said: "We are putting a lot of thought into how we design Glass because new technology always raises important new issues for society."

"Our Glass Explorer program will give all of us the chance to be active participants in shaping the future of this technology, including its features and social norms," it said.

Already some US states are looking to impose other limits on augmented reality devices. West Virginia is reportedly preparing a law that will make it illegal to use such devices while driving. Those breaking the law would face heavy fines.

In addition, bloggers are debating the influence of augmented reality spectacles on everyday life. Blogger Ed Champion wrote up 35 arguments against the gadget saying it could force all kinds of unwanted changes.

He warned it could stifle the freedom people currently have to enjoy themselves because they know they are being watched.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    At the risk of being facetious, the biggest limitation to wearing these glasses is that - like the person wearing a bluetooth headset whilst shopping around Sainsburys - you'll look faintly ridiculous. And you will stand out a mile. I am looking forward to seeing the technology for real but would be discrete - or selective in the location - about using them

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    That's exactly what your government wants you to do. Suppress technology and your rights to freedom.

    Privacy in the public, from the public does not make sense.

    Privacy from the government in the public does, and anyone in the UK will agree with this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    @ 46. Will
    Your argument there is flawed as battery power and storage media will soon catch up sufficiently to enable you to record HD video through the glasses for hours on end continuously.
    I shudder to think of the blatant invasion of privacy this encourages.

    How about the glasses WITHOUT a camera, I'd be far more interested and accepting of those.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    49. Faye
    Oh no, not again - Nothing to Hide Nothing To Fear after only 48 posts.
    You have curtains at home? Your wear clothes? You don't have your bank details tattooed on your forehead?
    Everyone has something to keep private - "hide" is misleading.
    "Reasonable expectation of privacy" should be remembered - the more surveillance, the less expectation of privacy, and the less open society becomes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Interesting to see the comments against the device this being rated so positively. Did you not already surrender what little public privacy you had when the camera phone became widespread? The only difference here is that the device is already out of your pocket, you still have to press the side to tell it to listen for the necessary voice commands. Looking forward to getting mine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    39. mr dancing gecko
    I wasn't referencing to EU in regards to constitutional rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Perhaps Google chould change its name to goggle. In a world where information is power they are trying to accumulate as much as possible. I'm sure the defamation lawers will love this. Any one laughed a joke that may be slightly racist/sexist/homphobic ? In future the thought police will just down load the nearest Google station and wham your in the slammer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    I could see these devices used by Law enforcement officers to record crime scenes/arrests, but for private usage? Nope.

    One step too far for me. But I'm rapidly becoming a grumpy technophobe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Also to those moaning about Googles privacy settings. You don't have to use Googles services but you chose too for FREE! If you dont want them to know what your up to don't use their services and there is plenty of alternatives. Its like you expect something for nothing.

    @47 whats to stop that happening now? Most and yourself seem unaware video googles have been around for years now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    George Orwell eat your heart out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Great concept, if they make the camera as good as a DSLR I can walk around doing street photography without being mugged, accused of terrorism by the Police, or receiving abuse from paranoid parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    This kind of tech will be good for Firemen, museums etc

    We can already record everything on phones and other such gadgets, it's just more obvious you're doing it.

    People now will be wary of it, people in the future won't care, as long as they can vomit their latest video into your face.

    To me it's kind of pointless, why would anyone want to see video of my boring life?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    If companies, shops etc want to ban users recording then fine. I bet before long most will be building apps so you can scan your shopping with your head and know the price rather than looking at the shelf, or going into a coffee shop and when the ask you for their name turning round and telling them theirs. Information over-load! Life is becoming a computer game with just as much emotion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    "I will never accept any arguement in favour which uses examples of so called 'good' which are of events which rare or non existent."
    Opposite: We shouldn't have bothered discovering with electricity because people might electrocute themselves. Better?
    Article and comments are 1 sided focus on negative.Everything has cons AND pros.
    Campaigners observed this tech may change society.Tech does that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    I can understand why some people would be worried about this, I personally am not - I have nothing to hide.

    If you have a social networking account your information is shared between external sources all of the time - the internet itself is not completely secure as many hackers prove on a daily basis.

    However, I do believe that there should be some restrictions on the device.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    George Orwell must be smiling in his grave at us. Surveillance technology is leading to societal regimentation. Freedom from being spied on is being slowly eroded until it's gone. Soon overflying drones will be a fixture of every urban landscape along with tele-com intelligence gathering on people. It's already happening by your internet provider. Must you help them screw you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    The ability of these glasses to record other individuals represents one of the greatest dangers society has ever known. If a pedophile wore these outside a school they could record the children unawares and by using special software potentially abuse them at a later date. Imagine if they were worn at a beach or pool? Literally 1000's of children could end up being abused without even realizing it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    I seriously doubt there'd be this much fuss if they were called iGlasses. But that aside, the power usage associated with using Google Glass to take continuous video on an hour-long walk through town - quite aside from the on-board storage/wireless data streaming limitations - will make the nightmare scenarios folks are postulating the next best thing to impossible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    There will be no more "donglegate" scenarios because nobody will talk to anyone wearing glasses. Or ties (google it).

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.



Page 16 of 19


More Technology stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.