Google Glass: Not Yet On Sale, But Already Banned in Some Businesses

google glass banned sign

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


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

21 Reactions
  1. I don’t really understand the ban. We can already use surveillance devices to record the sub-standard treatment that certain businesses are giving the consumer already. If they are concerned about their image, perhaps they should ban all smart phones from entering the building and see what that does to their bottom line. I don’t see Google Glass getting much widespread use in the first place.

  2. Sticky subject, for sure.

    My first thought…and it’s about privacy has to do with Peeping Toms. How will these guys-if they get their hands on Google Glass, use it?

    I predict that a lot of businesses will ban it-at first.

    Then we’ll have to see if it’s adopted.

    The Franchise King®

  3. “But Google Glass users have the ability to do so without actually showing any signs of recording.”

    This is factually incorrect.

    The natural state of Glass is to be off. It exists in standby mode until the wearer activates it. To activate it, the wearer has to either

    1) tilt her head up and down, or
    2) reach up touch the device on its side (touchpad)

    Either way, that’s a very clear signal to everyone that the device is being turned on.

    Then, once it’s on, there are two ways to start recording video (or take a photo):

    1) Say “OK Glass, record a video”, or
    2) Reach up to the touchpad again to do the three motions required: tap-swipe-tap.

    There’s also a button up above the touchpad that can be used to record a video or take a photo even when Glass is in standby, but again … doing that requires a very visible signal to everyone around that Glass is being used.

    Now, once you start recording a video or taking a photo, the display prism above the wearers eye turns on, and that is also visible to everyone around the Glass wearer. When Glass is in use, it’s unmistakable — there are several visual signals that it’s on.

    Further, the thing about Glass is that you can only shoot video or photos of exactly what you’re looking at. That’s the beauty of a head-mounted device. There’s no secrecy at all — if I’m recording video of you across a room, you’ll know. I can’t hide it. I have to stare directly at what I want to photograph.

    Compare that to a smartphone: I can stick it in my front shirt pocket and record video/audio with no clear signals that the device is on. While doing so, I can turn my head and look in a different direction while still recording what’s in front of me. (See this article for a photo of an iPhone recording in my front shirt pocket: OR … I can hold my smartphone down at my waist and shoot video/audio/photos in any direction I want — to my side, behind me, whatever. And no one would have any idea.

    Compare it to a modern digital camera, many of which have excellent built-in zoom lenses (Glass has no such zoom capability) and connect to the internet. I can be across a room with a camera like this and shoot pics of anyone I want without them knowing, and send them to the internet in seconds.

    Amazingly, there’s no uproar whatsoever over smartphone and digital cameras, both of which have much better photo and video capabilities and offer much easier ways to secretly record people.

    There are some legitimate privacy issues with Glass, just as there are with existing technologies and any future technology that comes along. So we need to talk about those, but the conversation needs to be based on facts and first-hand knowledge of these technologies, not on the fear-mongering that too often comes from these citizen groups that have no idea what they’re talking about.

    • Hi Matt,

      I certainly get your point about being able to record with a smartphone and hiding it.

      Still, many of the actions you mention for Glass as signs that images are being recorded are ones that only the cognoscenti are likely to recognize. I’m not sure I would recognize those as clear signs that recording is taking place. Maybe I would, but then again, I might easily miss those signals and at the very least be wondering if I’m being recorded.

      Seems to me this debate is like the debate over whether restuarants should ban talking on mobile phones. It is true that talking on mobile phones can be loud and annoy others — sometimes. Just as many times a person can speak quietly and it bothers no one. But restaurants have to make the rule for those who in fact disturb others.

      Just some random thoughts… 🙂

      – Anita

      • “Still, many of the actions you mention for Glass as signs that images are being recorded are ones that only the cognoscenti are likely to recognize.”

        Right, and that’s the point I’m trying to make, Anita. The businesses banning Glass and groups like Stop the Cyborgs are making rash judgments without having a clue how Glass really works.

        Over in the UK, they’re talking about banning Glass while driving, but in my experience (and the experience of other Glass owners), it makes me a safer driver because I don’t have to look down at my phone (or at a dashboard video screen) to see the route. My eyes are constantly looking straight ahead.

        People are taking action against something that they don’t actually know much about. Doesn’t make any sense to me.

    • Matt: You have several companies and establishments that have “no thanks”-sign for mobile phones. It should be up to the owner of the private property to decided what you are able to bring or wear at the location.

      How many “Glasses” are sold so far? I think it will take some time before it will become a “problem”… 😉

      • I agree, Martin — it’s up to the business owners and many will (and should) say “No Glass” allowed. You can’t use phones in the movie theater, you can’t use phones in casinos, etc. Same rules will apply to Glass.

  4. Personally, if these businesses ban Google Glass than they should also ban cell phones, cameras and any other recording device. People walk around with their cell phones taking photos and video all the time. What is the difference?

    • That would be quite refreshing. I wold be more likely to frequent a store or other venue where these annoying devices are banned. It would be nice to engage someone eye to eye rather than competing for their attention. Perhaps that’s a marketing idea for the future — good old-fashioned tech-free zones. There is a lot I love about technology, but smartphones are not one of them. But of course I am in the minority.

  5. People welcome new technology, but it should be used with care as fraudsters could easily abuse it for their bad intentions. Just my 2 cents.

  6. I want to experience these before I make any judgement. If people are worried about surveillance they need look no further than the latest smartphones.

  7. I am wondering what it is they are afraid of. Sure, there are some things that you should keep hidden such as a business’ unique strategy or materials they use for their products. But still, you should not be afraid of Google Glass if you’re doing business the right way.

  8. The yea or nay debate on Google Glass will continue… People seem to exaggerate the impact of Google Glass, partly because it’s a new technology. I understand that many of us have certain degree of technophobia.

    As a geek, IMHO, I see Google Glass as just yet another tech advances, just like when tablet PC is introduced in the market: Many pros and cons, but in the end, it has become mainstream.

    Eventually, people will understand that when they converse with someone wearing a Google Glass, they can expect things to happen, e.g. recording, etc.

    Just like what Matt mentioned in his comments, a smartphone in your pocket can do some recording, too, without people noticing.

    How about gadgets like Memoto, funded via Kickstarter? The small device takes photos automatically on your behalf for your photographic memory (lifelogging) – should it also be banned?

    How about when a table with 5 people gathering but none are talking to each other because everyone is busy with his/her smartphones? Should they be banned too? If you can consistently ban such behaviour, culture, habit, etc. then banning Google Glass might make the case, just like what mentioned by Hillary above.

    But again, how that impact your business bottom line? Is banning Google Glass worthy?

  9. Well as per discussed above, there are some advantages and disadvantages. For me, technology like this won’t do no harm to us as long as we’re using it right. The choice is from the users. Let’s give Google glass a chance to prove it’s worth and respect each company’s decision and perspective.

  10. I was just trying Google Glass last week and I was telling people I felt like a spy because with a simple voice command I was walking around recording everything around me. People can see I am wearing Glass, but like the article says there are no signs that I am recording.

  11. To be honest, I don’t like when someone pulls out their cell phone and starts photographing me. I was at a party the other night and some person I don’t know was taking pictures of me. I find that rude. I have Google Glass, cell phone and a high end camera and I would never take photos or video without getting someone’s permission. It’s just not right…

  12. I for one have been skeptical of Google glass right from inception.
    Just imagine a man goes into a shop with a lady, or on the other hand meets a lady in a shop and discussion springs up.
    Out of the blue the man goes home to meet the wife in an angry mood based on pictures sent to her by an unknown.

    You can begin to phantom the inherent danger of this glass to many relationship.

    I bet you that it will be a tool to further ruin the already ruined state of marriages in America.

    So am in support for its ban.

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