The New York City Police Department is set to test the controversial Google Glass device in a first-of-its-kind examination to see if it is a valuable anti-crime, anti-terrorist tool, reports the tech site Venture Beat.
The department’s massive intelligence and analytics division will incorporate the device into its operations in what could eventually lead to the use of Google Glass by policy agencies around the country.
“We signed up, got a few pairs of the Google glasses, and we’re trying them out, seeing if they have any value in investigations, mostly for patrol purposes,” a ranking New York City law enforcement official told VentureBeat. “We’re looking at them, you know, seeing how they work.”
Currently the devices are only available through Google’s Glass Explorer program. People interested in obtaining a pair must first apply and then receive notification from Google on whether the company has decided to accept or reject the application. If accepted, applicants must pay a $1,500 fee before receiving the device.
News of the testing will likely only serve to stir additional controversy, both within the NYPD and Google. A number of groups have been suspicious in the past of the department’s stop-and-frisk program, which was ruled unconstitutional last summer by a federal judge. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has just agreed to a series of court-ordered reforms that were sought by civil rights groups who claimed that the program disproportionately singled out minorities.
As for Google, the company has had to weather criticism recently regarding its alleged role in providing the National Security Agency and other government spies access to users’ metadata, as outlined in documents leaked to U.S. and British media by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. CEO Eric Schmidt angrily denounced the NSA spying effort after it was reported, but now that one of its surveillance devices is being beta-tested by the country’s largest police department, some may view Schmidt’s criticism as hollow.
Venture Beat reported that a Google spokesman denied the company was working directly with law enforcement agencies on the Google Glass testing, adding that the NYPD most likely acquired the devices through the Google Glass Explorer program.