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DHS accuses man of using Google Glass for shaky-cam movie piracy

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It's no secret that Google is planning to ship prescription versions of its Glass smart eyewear, but someone needs to tell the police -- and the MPAA and AMC -- about it. A man, going only by the initials T.U., wrote a guest post telling of a harrowing experience in Monday's The Gadgeteer, prompted by a prescription pair of Google Glass eyewear.

The incident included an hour-long interview by the DHS, as well as some roughing up and threats, when employees at an AMC theater saw him wearing Google Glass, and assumed he might be illegally taping the film.

To be clear, these weren't even standard Google Glass eyewear. They were prescription versions, meaning that if the man had taken them off and is as blind as we are (sans corrective lenses), he would have been helpless.

An hour into the movie ("Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit"), the incident began. T.U. wrote:

A guy comes near my seat, shoves a badge that had some sort of a shield on it, yanks the Google Glass off my face and says "follow me outside immediately."

The word "yanks" should be considered as just how upset the authorities were. As T.U. emerged from the theater, he encountered a number of police officers as well as mall security.

T.U. asked to see ID again, since in the dark of the theater he did not see the badge that had been presented to him. The response was

You see all these cops you know we are legit, we are with the ‘federal service’ and you have been caught illegally taping the movie.

Later still, he and his wife were taken to two separate rooms in the “management” office of Easton Mall. They were interrogated there.

T.U. had the following assertions for DHS (and their rebuttals are included).

  • Glass had been off (they didn't believe him).
  • Glass would have a light emanating from its screen if it was on (they didn't believe him).
  • He could show them the light (but they insisted he not touch the Glass for fear “I will erase the evidence against me that was on Glass”

They also knew nothing about the Glass program. They asked him questions that would be considered silly by any tech geek.

They wanted to know where I got Glass and how did I came by having it. I told them I applied about 1000 times to get in the explorer program, and eventually I was selected, and I got the Glass from Google. I offered to show them receipt and Google Glass website if they would allow me to access any computer with internet. Of course, that was not an option. Then they wanted to know what does Google ask of me in exchange for Glass, how much is Google paying me, who is my boss and why am I recording the movie.

Of course, he wasn't recording the movie. At this point, a technician came in with a laptop, they hooked Google Glass up to the computer, and saw there was nothing untoward on the eyewear.

A DHS spokesperson sent the following comment:From:

Walls, Khaalid H [mailto:Khaalid.H.Walls@ice.dhs.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 1:16 PM
To: Allison Manning
Subject: ICE

H Ally,

Please attribute the below statement to me:

On Jan. 18, special agents with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and local authorities briefly interviewed a man suspected of using an electronic recording device to record a film at an AMC theater in Columbus. The man, who voluntarily answered questions, confirmed to authorities that the suspected recording device was also a pair of prescription eye glasses in which the recording function had been inactive. No further action was taken.

Khaalid Walls, ICE spokesman

Khaalid Walls
Public Affairs Officer
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
313-226-0726
313-215-7657(m)

Notably, T.U. asked the agents why didn’t they just take those five minutes to examine his Glass device at the beginning of the interrogation, rather than 3 1/2 hours later. We have the answer, and it's obvious. It took them that long to track down someone who was tech-enough to do the actual geek-work.

Based on this, we hope DHS gets their agents up to speed on this device (oh, and the MPAA, and theater employees, too). Otherwise, we wouldn't be wearing Google Glass anywhere anything like this might happen anytime soon, and we'd have to think carefully about it every time we wore them.

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