Google Glass isn’t officially available to the public yet. But some businesses are already considering the potential impact of allowing such devices to be used on site. And some are putting people on advance notice with “Google Glass banned” signs.
The wearable computer, which just a few thousand “explorers” currently have access to, gives users hands-free access to a number of smartphone features. They include the ability to take photos and videos. Both these features are a big part of the reason why some business owners have already decided to ban the device in their establishments.
Google Glass Banned
Seattle’s 5 Point Café claims to be one of the first businesses in that city to ban the device from its premises. The owner stated in a March 5 Facebook post:
“For the record, The 5 Point is the first Seattle business to ban in advance Google Glasses. Seriously.”
Comments to the post were mixed. Some patrons seemed happy with the business’s concern for their privacy, while many others criticized the move as a publicity stunt and accused the owner of hating technology. The owner has since admitted that part of his intention was to be funny and get a reaction from Facebook followers. But he is serious about the ban.
And he’s not the only one to openly discuss the issue. Other types of businesses, including movie theaters, casinos and strip clubs, have also considered banning the devices preemptively. Fast Company, which is tracking the banning of the devices, reports New Jersey gaming authorities have already given local casinos permission to ban the devices. The National Association of Theatre Owners is preparing to develop a policy for their use at cinemas.
In fact, Search Engine Journal has published a list of 10 places likely to ban the devices. They include businesses like banks and any business like a health club or gym that might include a locker room or changing area.
Stop the Cyborgs
One group, in particular, is pushing to raise awareness among business owners and the community.
“Places where people expect to socialize freely like bars, clubs or restaurants are likely to be impacted,” said Jack Winters of the privacy advocacy site Stop the Cyborgs in a recent email interview. The website is part of an organization founded to draw attention to some of the privacy issues surrounding wearable tech like Google Glass.
Winters said that places like schools or doctors’ offices where children may be present should consider some of the legal issues surrounding allowing cameras and recording devices and the distribution of the images they create.
And Google Glass isn’t necessarily just another recording device. Smartphones and other mobile devices already give many individuals the ability to take photos and record videos at a moment’s notice. But Google Glass users have the ability to do so without actually showing any signs of recording.
“Your smartphone probably lives in your pocket, in your bag or on a table. There is a clear change in role from ordinary person to photographer, audio recorder or camera man. This both discourages you from constantly capturing stuff and acts as a series of social cues announcing that you are about to start recording,” Winters said.
He added that while it is possible for people to take photos or videos using their phones without attracting much attention, it doesn’t happen often. However with Google Glass, there are programs that can take a series of photos or record automatically without even requiring the user to press a button or use a voice command.
In addition, the advanced technology used by Glass opens the door for other anti-privacy features like real-time facial recognition, although Google has announced that it will not allow applications that use such technology.
“Face recognition is potentially a huge problem with the power to end anonymity and enable stalking and stigmatization. However, we are pleased that Google is taking this issue seriously and have banned face recognition at the moment,” Winters said.
But the possibility is there for the technology and capabilities of Google Glass to expand over time. And whether or not Google ever changes its stance on facial recognition, third party developers may find ways to integrate such features into wearable devices.
That’s why Winters and his partners at Stop the Cyborgs are trying to start a public debate about the issues surrounding wearable tech. While he acknowledges that there are important uses for wearable computers, the impact of allowing just anyone to wear recording devices into homes or businesses shouldn’t be ignored.
“The real issue is about establishing social norms,” he said. “We felt that if Google Glass was left unchallenged, people would assume that it is okay to wear them everywhere and would not bother to ask permission.”
To combat that, Stop the Cyborgs offers free downloadable signs on its website for business owners or homeowners to let others know that they would prefer Google Glass not be brought inside.
Image: Stop the Cyborgs