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 163.

    I don't know what the problem is...

    I don't use facebook, google+ or any other social network, don't post photos on instagram; nothing like that, because I do value privacy...


    It's not illegal to film / take photos in public anyway; by definition, what you do in public is not subject to privacy laws.

    If people really want to look like a k**b wearing these in the street, let 'em.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    The products (android ios etc) are already tracking the **** out of us with the myriad of default opt ins.. (try to subdivide the persmissions) no one will care that much, sheeple will be sheeple, if thingys got one whatstherename will want one.. ..The Vampire has to be invited in, we already there...

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    It would be completely ridiculous to ban the use of any such device in a public place, as it's legal to take photographs/video.

    I love the idea of google glass. Don't want to be seen doing something illegal: either don't do anything illegal, or do it in the privacy of your own home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Anyone worried about 'evil people' being able to covertly take pictures of others with these is a decade or so too late.

    Anyone can buy wearable or inconspicuous 'spy cameras' now - for a lot cheaper than Google Glass. You can get them in key fobs, pens, badges, etc.

    Google being able to access the data is a bit more of a risk, but facial recognition software isn't that easy or good yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    If a friend films you regularly simply learn to mimic their voice. Then...

    "OK Glass....delete video.
    Collect browser history, email to address book.
    Compose text message 'I'm having an affair with your sister' send to wife.
    Delete address book. Confirm."

    Job done, they won't record you again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    @62. eBooksUnited
    "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 157.

    Might be a good time to consider investing in spray-paint, shaving foam etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Neal Stephenson's third novel - Snow Crash, described a type of person (gargoyle) who made their living by selling live action at their location to the highest bidder. Sci Fi in 1992, getting close courtesy of google.

    I feel it might be essential for devices like glass to have an outward indication that they are recording the present scene, and that such indication be hardwired.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    I can see people wearing glasses being refused admission to concerts etc. where the artist has banned photography. Security staff can see and stop someone using a camera, how would they distinguish between Google glasses and prescription glasses? The first generation G-glasses may be easy to spot, later versions are likely to look just like regular glasses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    I know technology moves onward & upwards, but seriously, the product reminds me of Opti-Grab in Steve Martin's movie The Jerk...

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    If anyone thinks of these protests as excessive paranoia, I suggest that you scrutinise the ‘permissions’ on your Android apps before you click ‘allow downloading’.
    Some of the GPS apps for ex.- state that by clicking ‘allow ‘you are giving the app permission to take random photos without your consent, etc.
    Read them & remember knowledge is power & power is wealth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Many countries do not allow specific video / image recording of individuals without their permission, which has its flaws as well as attributes. Personally I hate being near certain tourists for this reason, the click their damn cameras from rise to slumber. And personally, although I have no sympathy for celebrities, I am tired shirtless of seeing their photos everywhere. I am against G Glass.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    you could know....NOT buy them? Just because your paranoid about the police monitoring your activities (they have more important things to do other than watch you go from home to work to home to work) do not try to limit technology. People got paranoid over satalites, they are now one of the most important instruments in the world so.....quit complaining

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    There's a curious irony that technology was supposed to liberate people; that the Internet would free the population to cast off the shackles of an Orwellian Big Brother.

    Instead, we see that the leaders of the 'revolution' are themselves becoming more equal than others. Echoes of that other Orwell novel: Animal Farm...

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Governments and law enforcement will just love this technology especially if they succeed in getting the Draft Communications Bill through. We, as a society, are drifting blindly towards the dystopian world that Orwell wrote about. The scary thing is, the majority seem to be accepting of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    More more more. What with miniature surveillance helicopters, soon we'll have live recordings from everywhere posted on the internet. Privacy? That disappeared years ago as soon as CCTV was installed and the resultant images allowed to be distributed to anyone by those that felt like releasing it.. Maybe we'll all end up in the zoo. Sometimes feels like it already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    'Wearable tech will only be a passing fancy, its the integrated cybernetic implants which will eventually revolutionise, everything.'
    Until a virus gets unleashed into ur implants turning you into a puppet as you are forced to become part of an army of cyber zombies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    @ 133. Mike Smee
    "Oh come on! Can you really see this taking off??"
    that's exactly what they said about mobile phones when they first came out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    I predict that this gadget will get the same file-o-fax style stigma given to those self important business types who wear bluetooth headsets or constantly refer to their IPhone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    @bus hugger

    So you're using 'soon' in the subjective sense. Meaning 'before the heat death of the Universe'. Can't argue with you there. Where I can argue is your reference to 4G - there's no indication that Google Glass supports any mobile web access standard. Meaning you'd need to tether it to your mobile phone, and burn through your data plan and both batteries. Like I said, infeasible.


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