If you thought the NSA was too invasive by tracking your phone calls and emails, wait until you see what happens when everyone starts wearing Google Glass. Currently being tested by so-called Glass Explorers, Google Glass is expected to hit the market in April 2014. Google has a great demonstration page which shows stunning videos and photos supposedly taken with Google Glass, all presented in beautiful HiDef with appropriately uplifting music. Based on the number of people who are willing to stand outside an Apple store for days every time that company hiccups, one can assume there will be a similar rush to be the first Google Glass customers.
Before anyone starts planning to sleep outside to buy these glasses, though, some people are already casting a wary eye on the product. Even in preliminary testing phases, Google Glass has opened a Pandora's Box of legal concerns. If it does become the next big thing in wearable technology, what are the ramifications for intellectual property and personal privacy when somebody can secretly film or take a picture of you with, literally, the wink of an eye? It's not bad enough to see what stupid things people post when using one hand with a cell phone; what will happen when they are given glasses that make it possible for them to be even stupider with two hands? Google responded by making modifications that would make this harder to do, but hackers will be only too happy to quickly find ways around those measures.
Internet blogger Robert Scoble is so gaga for Google Glass he says he wears them everywhere, and posted this supposed picture of himself wearing them in the shower to prove it. But this is exactly the type of thing that should get privacy advocates all lathered up -- where does privacy end when everybody has access to wearable technology? This could go far beyond sexting and sex scandals when nobody knows whether or not they are being watched, no matter what they are doing.
Gabriel Meister and Benjamin Han addressed some of these crucial privacy issues in theirthought-provoking article, "Peering Into the Future: Google Glass and the Law." Meister is a partner in Morrison & Foerster's Technology Transactions and Global Sourcing practice groups, specializing in high tech and intellectual property matters. He is a co-founder of the firm's Socially Aware newsletter and blog, which focus on social media and the law. Although concerns regarding "the sacred precincts of private and domestic life" are as old as the Kodak camera, the issue has not been fully resolved in the public's mind.
Some bars and restaurants are beginning to ban Google Glass and that is only the first salve in the privacy wars. Guantanamo has already taken action and casinos are reviewing their options. Should movie theaters and concert venues try to ban them as well to prevent unauthorized sales? How will corporations be able to stop employees from photographing documents containing trade secrets?
After an inquiry from Congress, Meister also points out that Google recently announced that it will not allow facial recognition apps on Glass, although hackers have quickly found a way around that. What does that bode for deadbeat parents, people who are behind on payments, fugitives, or people in witness protection if they can be so easily recognized? Paparazzi will especially love the ability to out celebrities no matter where they are.
One big area of law which will need to be thoroughly analyzed in light of these recent advances in technology is the "reasonable expectation of privacy" doctrine, which was designed to protect people from being photographed in certain places. If Glass is everywhere, can anyone have a reasonable expectation of privacy, or should we all be required to act in such a way that we wouldn't mind having a photo of us doing something posted for all the world to see?
Another potentially-dangerous legal question around Google Glass is using it to access turn-by-turn navigation while driving. Google says it will "free your eyes" by limiting the need to look at a phone, but others are forcibly arguing that people are fundamentally incapable of looking away from what they are doing for a few seconds without losing their bearing. If states have quickly banned texting and calling while driving, how long will it be before the first lawsuit surrounding Googling and driving?
Seriously people, politicians can't even keep our country running, and we expect them to solve these privacy issues for us? The coming entrance of Google Glass into the mainstream of everyday life will be a wake-up call for everybody. Be careful of what you say and do -- Google Glass is watching you.