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 203.

    For some things, Google Glass could make a lot of sense, even driving, but it depends enormously on what it is programmed to do. And the onlooker cannot tell what it is doing.

    And with my middle-aged eyes, it may not turn out to be much use anyway.

    What we have seen so far has been "gosh-wow" demonstration. What software will be the "killer app"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    I just don't get what the big worry is about. Technology will come. It annoys me when people look up their e-mails, bbc news on their smartphones when there's a lull in activity, what ? There are lots of anti-social things people do which are by-products of new technology (drink-driving), but overall technology is there to help us. Embrace it. We're intelligent enough to adapt to suit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    Technology is now in a similar state to how it was in the 60's. Firms like Google all desperately trying to come up with the next big thing, whereas what they're really inventing is the modern day equivalent of "Dolly the Robot Housemaid" that weighs 3 tons, can't climb stairs and routinely spills scalding tea into your lap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    A good reason for google glass ? Police brutality.

    Since smartphones, cops have been caught doing stuff from 30 different angles, like in the MET murder of a black guy in NY.

    Recording in public ? Yes, its public. Everything can already be recorded secretly with phones.

    If you want privacy, *be somewhere PRIVATE*. You don’t like glass, don’t wear it.

    Don't expect privacy on streets, silly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    I'd be much more worried about the safety aspect. People already walk and drive around while distracting themselves with MP3 players and phones. Give them glasses that let them do it without even moving their heads, and they'll be completely oblivious to cars, pedestrians, trains and any other potential collision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    The amount of information in databases around the world detailing every aspect of our lives already exists. Just today I signed up for a credit report, it had details of every address I had lived at for the past 6 years, the amount of times I have requested car insurance, home insurance, when, who with and for how much, and that was one database.

    Privacy in 2013 is somewhat of a misnomer

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    If these specs had a certain fruit based logo on them the BBC would be telling us all how vital they were to the continued existence of humankind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    Luddites incoming

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Spying isn't the problem here. Drivers wearing these things whilst at 90mph in the fast lane of motorways is more frightening.
    Let's get that prevented first.

  • Comment number 194.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.


    I use a rare method of communication called speaking and listening. It's an archaic concept, but it works for me.

    I don't use social networks because I don't care about most people's lives, and I doubt that people would care about my mundane life either - why post drivel so marketers can spam me?

    All I needed to sign up to HYS was an email address... not really invasive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.


    "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..."

    Instead you sit here on the BBC comments page talking to people you don't know. hhhmmmmmmmmm

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    176. Pbrowne2009
    Why do people keep referring to 'spying' and the government monitoring people?
    I think they are referring to the US Govt requirement that all comms that go via US be recorded, kept and filtered - so just don't say anything like 'bomb', or you may get an orange jump suit :o)

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    A lot of people have commented on here, which makes me think I'm out of touch as to be truthful until today I had no idea or heard of what Google glass is! Sorry I 'll go back to sleep!

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    Oh awesome, now I only need to say a word to catch people acting stupid.

    on another note, I wonder if footage of people commiting crimes will be usable in court or driving offences, I would make sure my passenger always wore these to record the illegal and dangerous driving people do on the UK roads and submit to punish the drivers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.



    No, I just do them in the privacy of my own home, was that bit not clear?


    Anything I do in public is captured on CCTV, is seeable by the public, so why should it not be recordable by the public? I carry several cameras with me everywhere.  Nobody has ever objected to me using them

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    I get enough 'no signal' and 'connection timed out' messages on my phone. I don't need them beaming directly into my eyes, thanks.

    Can't say I'd care if someone else wears them; I usually look pretty good in photos :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    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...
    So set it so only your real friends can see your pages, and your privacy issue is solved.
    If that's not private enough for you, you should probably think twice about posting in a public forum at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    Are we not getting hung up on the surveillance issue of this device. The thing is micro surveillance devices have been around in various "guises" for some time - in pens lighters ...and yes glasses, all of these so well concealed, you would have no clue you were being recorded. Google Glass on the other hand makes no attempt to conceal what it is. I think the potential benefits are more important

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    #164: "Its quite simple really....... no likie, no buyie. Its technology, deal with it!!!!!"

    That's as preposterous as "Don't like guns? Don't buy them!" in the US - yeah, except you still collect your children in body bags courtesy of the loonies who DO like them!
    There are technologies that simply MUST be regulated. Hint: Don't like atom bombs? Don't buy them... and just "deal with it!"


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