Jason Perlow explains why Google Glass (or similar devices from other vendors) are inevitably going to be part of the future, and why many already refer to the users of such devices as “Glassholes”:
It could certainly be argued that whenever a new consumer technology enters society, those who are quick to adopt it are typically ridiculed by the have-nots. Eventually, many of these technologies become commonplace and are more accepted by the mainstream, particularly when they become more affordable.
This has pretty much always been the case, starting with the radio pager, then the cellular phone, text capable handsets, and then, of course, Bluetooth headsets, the smartphone and the tablet.
People who first used these things were once seen very much as elitist and not part of the mainstream, and they were considered disruptive.
To some extent, even with their popularity, they are still considered disruptive when used in various social contexts.
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With Glass, because the device is being worn and there’s no indication of when it is being used, one has to assume that the wearer is recording everyone all of the time.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have serious issues with the notion that I could be recorded by everyone at any time.
Look, I am aware that law enforcement and government agencies have us under surveillance, and it’s not uncommon for people to be photographed and videoed hundreds of times per day, particularly if you live in a major city.
The growth of public surveillance has all kinds of civil liberties concerns, but it’s a done deal … you probably can’t avoid being recorded many times per day unless you stay at home with the blinds down (and turn off your cell phone, and avoid the internet, and …). The social and cultural issues around private surveillance will provide some fascinating legal wrangles in the very near future: where does my right to record (“lifelog”) all of my activities conflict with your right not to be so recorded? Will the concept of privacy be one of the first things jettisoned over the side?
Governments and law enforcement agencies will want maximum opportunity to use their surveillance tools — both for specific investigations and for general purpose Big Brothering — and if that means abandoning any pretense of protecting your privacy against invasion by non-government agencies, they’ll take it. They’re already 9/10ths of the way there as it is.
There are things you only say and do with close friends in confidence, others which may be revealed in private business meetings, et cetera. We all know and have seen what happens when supposedly “private” or unauthorized recordings are made behind closed doors and then leaked to the general public, either intentionally or accidentally.
It can cost someone their career. It can destroy one’s personal reputation. It will most certainly cause one strife with one’s friends and family. And as we have most recently seen, it can also cost you a Presidential Election.
He also discusses the possibility of social and technical controls to provide anti-lifelogging zones, which I strongly suspect will be simultaneously introduced almost immediately when Google Glass or similar technology is released to the public, and almost certainly more of a hassle for non-users of the technology for little or no actual benefit. It will be the usual politician’s syllogism: “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore we must do it.” As for the technical side, there is almost nothing more tempting to a certain kind of hacker than the technical equivalent of a “Do not touch” sign.
Obviously, for this type of anti-lifelogging tech to work, there has to be an agreed upon API or programmatic trigger signals that cannot easily be defeated by hackers.
But if it cannot be made to work, or if the effectiveness of the tech cannot be guaranteed, then I forsee situations where people will be forced to remove and surrender their devices in order to prevent the possibility of recording, as well as a change in our culture to be much more careful about what one says, even in very intimate situations.
And that is an Orwellian chilling effect that I think could be very harmful to the development of our society as a whole.
This chilling effect was evident in decades past in East Germany while the country was in fear of the ever-watching eyes and ears of the Stasi, which had perhaps the largest informant and surveillance network of any nation per capita in the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War, the USSR included.