2014-03-28 / Columnists

Your Life And Privacy

Through The Google Glass
By Gille Ann Rabbin, Esq., CIPP/US

According to some predictions, 300 million wearable technology devices will be shipped to consumers by 2018. Today, the most well-known example of wearable technology is probably Google Glass, also known simply as “Glass.”

Glass is a pair of eyeglasses with a tiny display screen that the wearer can see in the corner of her eye. It has a touchpad on one side through which the wearer can access information, a camera, and a microphone. Glass, which can be synchronized with other mobile devices, also has functionality to use voice recognition technology to type messages or send commands (think Apple’s Siri).

Glass can be useful for many reasons. For starters, a wearer can send and receive messages and emails; make and receive phone calls; share data with social networks; conduct search functions; and get travel directions. Glass is like having a hands-free smartphone.

Glass can also be useful for reasons that make people uncomfortable. For example, a wearer can take pictures and video, and record sounds and even biometric information without being obvious. Wearers could potentially use facial recognition technology to try to identify somebody in front of them.

Police departments nationwide are evaluating whether to equip police officers with Google Glass. Some departments are testing Glass for potential use as a crime-fighting tool. Glass could give officers the ability to access instantly police databases like arrest records, and use other applications helpful to policing, like facial recognition applications.

There are other specialized uses for Glass. For example, surgeons would be able to use them during a surgical procedure to view things like body temperature, pulse, and blood pressure, without looking away from the operation. The use of Google Glass presents safety issues. These include whether a wearer can safely drive while wearing a pair of glasses with a display screen. While legislatures nationwide are debating proposed legislation to impose restrictions on driving with headsets like Glass, Google is lobbying officials to stop the passage of these restrictions.

The use of Google Glass also presents privacy and security issues. A student wearing Glass during a test can look up answers; an employee wearing Glass can surreptitiously take images of confidential work product and sell them to a competitor; an intrusive wearer can secretly take pictures and record video and conversations of others without their consent, and even identify strangers in public using facial recognition.

Google has come out with a guide for Glass wearers, essentially a code of conduct for a user to follow to avoid being a “Glasshole” (a term coined on the West Coast to refer to Glass wearers who are using the device in a manner that others would find insensitive or rude).

Currently, Glass can only be obtained through the Glass Explorer Program. Would-be Explorers must apply to Google online, and if approved, can purchase the device for $1500.

Google Glass is still nascent; however, it is a certainty that wearable technology will be changing our lives in the near future.

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