Privacy 'impossible' with Google Glass warn campaigners

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

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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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    @60. CaptainBeaky
    "Reasonable expectation of privacy"

    I agree with the "Reasonable expectation of privacy", and you shouldn't expect privacy in the public FROM THE PUBLIC.

    I full heatedly think it's fine to use this technology in the public, so long as the government isn't using similar technology or monitoring citizens, like in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.


    That's funny, because I was born in '85, and I am against people walking around with cameras on their head. I even work in the tech industry as a video game developer.

    At the very least there should be a large red LED when they are recording, and versions without a camera should be sold.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Want to know the way ? Try asking somebody, then you'll have interacted with another human and you'll both be better for the experience.
    Not if they send you the wrong way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    I'm going to get one defo. And I'm going to record everyone and everything. If people don't want to be recorded and they choose to go out in public in the 21st century, then they shouldn't walk in front of someone wearing this device or any one of the 50 gazillion CCTV cameras that litter our buildings and streets. Simples. 1984, anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Believe it or not, the issue about information being collected isn't exactly the issue. It's who the information is being collected on, and who has access to it and for what purpose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    It seems to have come as a complete surprise to some people that what they do in public mught be seen and heard.

    Privacy is something you have in private.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    @92 or catching those who claim to be peaceful yet are throwing objects off roofs at innocent people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    84. G_K___
    It's not going to be feasible to ban this sort of device without banning cameras.
    True - intrusive use of digital cameras directly fired up a paranoia around street photography, which means that good photography in a public place is now almost a dead art.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Complete rubbish these people need to be more constructive with their time you can't stop technology from changing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    If one is in a public place then surely one is waiving the right to privacy anyway. I cannot imagine demanding that people forget me so why should I demand to be left unrecorded in any other manner? There are so many other possibilities here too: The ability to record crime to aid the police, take snapshots of life for future generations to see, or simply to modernise what we have already...

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Augmented reality my bottom.

    Instead of peering at your phones/tablets/new internet enabled specs - try looking around. It doesn't get any more real than that.

    Want to know the way ? Try asking somebody, then you'll have interacted with another human and you'll both be better for the experience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Should be ideal for demonstrations when the police over react and start attacking peaceful protesters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    In my considered opinion that is unwarranted. No one has any privacy or right to privacy in a public place. If you put yourself out and about then the law deems that you leave behind any expectation of privacy. Whatever 'privacy' means - I'm never sure what this "thing" is to be honest. Those who suspect that others are remotely interested in them are deluded and self-important nobodies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    The amount of paranoia and scaremongering here is astonishing. With regards to privacy, there is nothing about these glasses that can't be done already with miniature cameras. You are already videoed many times a day.

    If you think glasses that record video are one of the greatest dangers society has ever known, you've lived a very sheltered life. Greater than the holocaust?

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Mine is a split generation of the few who grew up immersed in Moore's law, and those who didn't. I was ridiculed as a geeky child by peers and teachers for dreaming of such things. Kids now expect it, intuiting Moore's law like we all do gravity.

    Changes on the scale of the industrial revolution are coming, and much faster. The next few years will shape and divide us. You can't turn the tide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    The key difference between a mobile phone camera and Google Glass is that with the former you normally know when your image and voice is being filmed, whereas with the latter you'll have no idea.

    Do we really want everything we say to anyone to be recorded, with no control on who else can then listen to it? The episode of "Black Mirror" called "The Entire History of You" was just the start.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Can we be sure that this isn't all a publicity stunt by Google (a la Apple) to get people frothing at the bit for this new technology. Speaking personally I can find one major use for it - accessing Google Maps to find addresses while I'm working - assuming that they can improve them of course so that they are more than the work of fiction that they often are at present.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    So I take it physical assault – as in punching someone in the face – is going to become legal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    You will be able to tell the saddo's that will over use this technological invention even when they are not wearing them. They will all have eyes like Marty Feldman!

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    It's not going to be feasible to ban this sort of device without banning cameras.

    What needs to be done is to create a social consensus where personal surveillance devices are considered rude, uncool and socially unacceptable.

    It needs some kind of negatively-charged nickname for the glasses or those people using them - Ogle Glass / Ogle Goggles / Peeping Creeps / Creeping Toms etc.


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