I have been following Google Glass for a while, and am pretty excited about the technology and the possibility of someday getting my hands on one both as a user and a developer. In the meantime, I’m following the back-and-forth between fans of the tech and people who believe it’s the Apocalypse of Personal Privacy, and some of the reactions are really starting to irk me (see “Stop The Cyborgs” and “Seattle Bar Bans Google Glass” for examples of this). I published my feelings on the matter as a late comment to a Slashdot article (“Should We Be Afraid of Google Glass”), but since I keep seeing more of these ignorant, emotional reactions popping up, I’ll repost it here:
This kneejerk fear that you are “being recorded” in public places is irrational and stupid, and only a matter of decades away from being shoved in your face by advances in technology that you are probably not aware of (see Brain Movies for something thought-provoking). We forget or dismiss that we already are recorded, in a manner of speaking, by the human eye and the human brain whenever anyone else sees us, which is pretty much analogous to cameras and digital memory and is exactly what Glass does. I already refrain from acting in ways I don’t want to be remembered by other people when I’m around people (or think I might be around people), and in my opinion this is no different. Personally I hate the idea of stationary hidden surveillance cameras or drones with cameras far more than I’m bothered by the notion that someone who looks at me can remember me tangibly or mentally, since in the long run I have no assurance that someone who’s seen me can’t someday have their brain imaged while remembering what they saw, and with hidden stationary cameras or drones I simply have no way of knowing that I’ve been seen in the first place.
I realize people will argue that memory is more fallible (then again, digital imagery can be manipulated) and currently can’t be shared with other people (see prior paragraph) and somehow that’s more comforting, but we will end up facing this issue as a species one way or another and as a result, Glass doesn’t bother me in the least. If you don’t want to be recorded, then disguise yourself or stay away from people you don’t completely trust, because laws and feelings ultimately cannot — and never could — prevent people from remembering you or surreptitiously recording your image in the first place.
2 thoughts on “Google Glass, Privacy”
People vastly underestimate how malleable human attitudes towards things like privacy are. Our own notions of privacy in 21st Century America are vastly different from what an 18th Century or even 19th Century person would have expected.
Privacy is dead. That’s all their is to it. The ingenuity of mankind will rapidly find more and more ways to subvert it as our mastery of materials and systems expands and matures. What will be the conventions of the future, the mores and expecations, the rules? Who knows? We probably cannot even imagine the sort of society that will be born out of everyone being in the view of everyone else everywhere and always.
At best all we can do is try to avoid some of the more obvious pitfalls (drastically asymmetric access to information, etc).