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Google Glass isn't the privacy-killer the media wants it to be

Posted: , by Michael H.

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Google Glass isn't the privacy-killer the media wants it to be

You’ve likely seen the article run a number of times already, and they will just become more and more frequent as Google Glass gets closer and closer to release. The title of the article is always something designed to scare you, because “Google Glass is going to destroy privacy!” Well look, we’re not as reactionary and easily scared as some others, and we think that the target of the trouble is not Google Glass at all. It’s just a simple fear of the unknown; a fear of the new.

Some people are complaining that Google Glass won’t be a useful product, but that’s also not an interesting argument to us, because if you haven’t used a product, you can’t judge it. There have been countless times when new products have come to market that were something different, so we didn’t know how to process it. And, with Glass as with social networks, location-aware devices, and other technologies, there can be uses that arise after release that we never expected (and likely Google never expected either). Aside from those who want to dislike the unknown, there are also those who would use it to scare people in the name of “protecting the public”.

Misinformation and fearmongering

The base of the entire problem seems to be that Google Glass amounts to having an “always on” camera on your face. Let’s just start by debunking this claim, because if Google has found a way to have a camera constantly on, and constantly streaming video either to your phone storage or to the Internet, then we should actually be celebrating the breakthrough that Google has made in designing batteries. If Google Glass really can do everything the fearmongers claim, the battery of that device (and the storage capacity of the connected phone) have to be technological marvels the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

So, then the issue becomes simply that you have a camera on your face, and you can record video or take a picture any time you want. Of course, this is exactly like every other camera that has been in society for years and years, just on your face. Every one of us risks having our picture taken any time we walk out the door. That’s why it’s called “going out in public”. There’s no expectation of privacy when anyone can see you on the street. 

Incompatible arguments

Okay, but people claim they get “creeped out” by having their picture taken. This is also not true. If you don’t want your picture taken, you either avoid the person with the camera, or you ask the photographer to not take your picture. This is when our absolute favorite inane argument comes out about Google Glass, because many people would say “but you can never know when someone is taking pictures with Glass!”

Really? What amazes us is that some people can actually make this argument while simultaneously saying that they would never wear Google Glass because it isn’t “fashionable”. Here’s the little secret: the style of Google Glass is the privacy control. Look at any picture of someone wearing Google Glass, you cannot think "oh, those are just normal glasses." It is completely incompatible to complain about the potential privacy issues around Google Glass, and in the next breath, complain about how you wouldn't wear them because they look so strange.

Google Glass isn't the privacy-killer the media wants it to be

It’s not like Google designed Glass to blend in with traditional eyewear. Glass looks strange, it makes you take a second look, and it gives you pause, because it is different. And, when you’re recording a video, there is a red light that comes on, just like many other cameras. On top of that, if you want to take a picture, you have to either tap the touchpad of Glass, meaning a pretty big and noticeable movement with your arm, or you have to give a voice command, meaning you have to say out loud that you are taking a picture. Can someone explain again how we are supposed to be having our picture taken all over the place without noticing?

If someone is far enough away to take the picture with Glass without you noticing, they would have been able to take that same picture with any traditional camera or smartphone and you wouldn’t have noticed that either. This leads to what gets us so annoyed about the Glass articles so far: the fearmongering has been focused on the technology, even though the behavior we’re worried about is nothing new.

Refocusing the argument

If you know Jeff Jarvis, journalism professor and tech blogger, you’ve heard this appeal to reason before: we need to condemn the behavior, not the technology. For example, there has always been identity theft, technology can make it easier, but it’s the behavior that’s should be the crime, not the technology. The same applies here. We’ve had cameras for generations. We’ve had cameraphones, capable of easily distributing those images quickly, or even sharing them publicly on the web for years now. Google Glass is doing nothing new in that respect.

The same goes for the personal privacy issue where Google Glass will be feeding more information to Google about where you are and what you’re doing. You’ve had a smartphone with a constant connection to GPS and Google for a while now, and it’s doing a great job of giving Google all that information. And, you know what you’ve gotten out of the deal? Google Now, possibly the single most useful piece of software to come out of the mobile revolution to date.

The only thing that Google Glass has done wrong is to be a lightning rod for the issue. Google is obviously hyper-aware of the criticism already surrounding the device, and has been working to not only raise awareness of the product. Google has designed the Glass to stand out, to be noticed, so that any privacy concerns will be lessened.

Perhaps the privacy concerns can’t be removed completely, but they couldn’t be eradicated for cameraphones or point-and-shoot cameras that came before. Google Glass is nothing to get so scared about. It’s simply a new device using old technology in a new way. There will be an adjustment period, as always, but Google Glass shouldn’t hold any special place in the privacy debate. The “creep factor” comes from what people do with the technology, not the technology itself.

  • Options

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 11:15 4

1. p5yb0rg (unregistered)

Google glass would be the end of privacy as we know it. This would make it way too easy to be tracked and monitored by Google and the US Government. I'll pass.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 11:22 38

3. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)

Easier to be tracked than with the phone in your pocket?

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 12:23 12

10. PhoneArenaUser (Posts: 5498; Member since: 05 Aug 2011)

Thanks for article, Michael H.
I think that you write best articles in PhoneArena.com and my question is why you are more in articles than in smartphone reviews? I and I think that majority other PhoneArena.com visitors would like to see more smartphone reviews from you, because current trend says that majority PhoneArena.com visitors anymore don't trust and don't take seriously reviews written by Ray S.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 12:34 5

11. PhoneArenaUser (Posts: 5498; Member since: 05 Aug 2011)

I don't say that I like everything what you wrote (because everyone can have own subjective opinion), but I respect one thing, when I read your articles I see that you put more effort in articles than some other PhoneArena.com writers. Anyway I don't want to offend other PhoneArena.com writers, I just say that I think that Michael H. puts more effort in articles. And that's why I ask about why you don't make smartphone reviews. :)

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 15:27

20. p5yb0rg (unregistered)

Cell phones are very easy to track due to their gps and location based features. Google Glass however, will open many avenues and provide additional ways of tracking peoples interests, patterns, likes/dislikes, etc. Now, having the ability to tap into what we're watching/looking at during any given time, gives them full access to our lives.
It's so unfortunate for those who aren't aware that Google does monitor our searches and uses our results to personalize ads and what we intake.
Kudos to the uneducated.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 15:58 4

21. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)

Any Google service that monitors you can be opted out of. GPS can be turned off. Google Goggles (which would be the only way to track what's in your photos) is an opt-in service. If you don't want Google monitoring your searches, use DuckDuckGo.

Kudos to spreading fear rather than knowledge.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 16:10

22. p5yb0rg (unregistered)

My motive isn't to spread fear, but to pull back the curtains of those who aren't seeing the light or truth. Google's success is primarily based on their ads, which are focused around our search history/patterns. Do you honestly think randomly placed ads equate to success?
Do your homework bro.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 17:49 3

29. joey_sfb (Posts: 5741; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)

And you are the google glasses expert without using one.... Gee!!!

I would reserve my comment till i actually own one.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 18:09 2

30. bayusuputra (Posts: 962; Member since: 12 Feb 2012)

Do YOUR homework, sis..

You CAN opt out!!!

wtf is wrong with people, they don't effing now something and then just effing spread some effing bull..

Yes, Google tracks you, but that's when you don't want to opt out.. I don't see any ads in my inbox because I opt out.. As simple as that.. smh..

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 18:13 2

31. PhoneArenaUser (Posts: 5498; Member since: 05 Aug 2011)

Internet provider also can track you, maybe you should disconnect?

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 18:52 2

33. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)

Pulling back the curtain means telling both sides of the story. Everyone knows that Google's revenue is almost all based on ads, and those ads get more valuable with more info on us.

But, we get benefit from Google having more info on us too. We get better search results, we get better services, and we get better products.

And, as I said, you can opt out of all of this if you want to. But, your ISP tracks every website you visit without your consent, and there's no opt out there.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 19:20

38. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

Thank you.

How in the world does he think the MPAA and RIAA get info about ppl that download possible illegal material?

And if he is so paranoid...he must want Siri and Google Now to be half baked shells of what they are now. GPS apps are alot better when more of your info is known.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 18:58

35. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

Hotmail and outlook.com has search history/pattern ads.

Hotmail and outlook.com can be accessed on phones.

I await for your opinion about MS.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 11:37 1

4. dr_fajardo12 (Posts: 118; Member since: 26 Aug 2012)

conspiracy theory?

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 11:43 3

6. Reluctant_Human (Posts: 886; Member since: 28 Jun 2012)

Yes Google was founded by the government after they were commanded by Illuminati to find out everything you do because you won't add them on facebook where you publicly and willingly post everything about your daily life..

OR bear with me on this one.. it could be because Google likes pushing the limits of technology because its PROFITABLE.. (cue ominous music)

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 12:10 4

8. technut (Posts: 62; Member since: 03 Aug 2012)

You do realize your being tracked right now right???

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 16:31

26. p5yb0rg (unregistered)

Do you realize you're not using correct grammar?

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 18:46

32. roscuthiii (Posts: 2217; Member since: 18 Jul 2010)

Do you realize your user name is comprised of leet? I mean really, leet?! So 1980's.

Oh, now I get your Google paranoia. You think it's 1984.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 13:43 2

16. Aeires (unregistered)

There's a deep, dark cave waiting for you and your paranoia.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 23:50 1

39. Jonathan41 (Posts: 532; Member since: 22 Mar 2012)

Right "p5yb0rp". I'm sure Google out to get us all. Just like Skynet, I'm going to watch The Terminator right now to prepare. I'll be sure to not use the Play store though...wouldn't want them getting suspicious, ey.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 11:16

2. VJo003 (Posts: 357; Member since: 11 Mar 2012)

Who's she???

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 11:40 3

5. Smart (Posts: 76; Member since: 20 Aug 2011)

There are two "she"..........Who you talking about?

Both are gorgeous though....

And about google glass...I am excited as hell.....

Just waiting to get my hand on one....

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 11:46 4

7. _Bone_ (Posts: 2154; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)

Her identity is kept private.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 13:01 1

14. disneydad (Posts: 114; Member since: 26 Mar 2012)

Perfect avatar for this article VJ. LOL

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 14:11

17. Peter27 (Posts: 233; Member since: 13 Jul 2012)

vjo003. she looks good only because of google glass. once she takes it off...

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 12:13

9. ddmcd (Posts: 1; Member since: 05 Mar 2013)

"Some people are complaining that Google Glass won’t be a useful product, but that’s also not an interesting argument to us, because if you haven’t used a product, you can’t judge it."

I laughed out loud at the above comment given that Google's dribbling out of info about Glass is intended to get people talking about it.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 13:00 3

12. htc_prep (Posts: 303; Member since: 09 Oct 2009)

here here Michael H. all very valid points of conversations from the overly paranoid, uneducated, ignorant backwoods individuals!!!

on a side note... no one will raise these issues or concerns once or if the "iWatch" ever comes to fruition. although more then likely they will share a few commonalities.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 13:00 1

13. disneydad (Posts: 114; Member since: 26 Mar 2012)

Google Glass conjures up the comedic fears from the Futurama episode about the 'EyePhone'. Hopefully we won't all become an army of zombies under the direction of Mom. lol

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 13:11

15. N-fanboy (Posts: 543; Member since: 12 Jan 2013)

Drop this $hit and you drop your 2k$ :-D

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 15:11 5

18. ultimatebatman (Posts: 52; Member since: 04 Dec 2012)

No one would argue against Glass if it was an Apple product. It would be considered the ultimate gift from Steve Job's undying spirit, or whatever cult-like praise Apple fans can conjure

posted on 06 Mar 2013, 11:22 1

47. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)

I'm quite sure that there would be plenty of hate for an Apple version of Glass. Especially from our readership.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 15:24

19. mrblah (Posts: 576; Member since: 22 Jan 2013)

you will look like a tool, just like with a bluetooth

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 16:13 3

23. alexzibrit (Posts: 67; Member since: 15 Jan 2013)

Yeah but who cares, it's useful, If I start caring about how something looks over it's functionality please kill me, I wouldn't deserve to live in this world anymore

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 19:12

37. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

I have to disagree. Blue tooth...you dont look like a tool. Blue tooth is very useful, no matter what you think.

There are Blue tooth stereo head sets. How would one even know it was Blue tooth unless they were examining ppl's heads?

Blue tooth just looks like you are talking to yourself...lol. Women with long hair or ppl with hats on.

posted on 06 Mar 2013, 11:23 2

48. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)

Bluetooth made you look like an idiot 10 years ago, when no one knew what it was. These days, no one cares at all.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 16:20 2

24. alexzibrit (Posts: 67; Member since: 15 Jan 2013)

Yes I know Google monitors my searches and I thank them for that, because of it we have technology like Google Now, which is the most useful thing I have ever used, and It's not like I'm a terrorist, I don't have anything to hide

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 16:27 2

25. pongkie (Posts: 538; Member since: 20 Aug 2011)

Google and privacy doesn't really mix well together. Google will do anything to gather info for those adds

posted on 06 Mar 2013, 07:54

44. networkdood (Posts: 6330; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)

Ok, and you can opt out of ads...I block all ads on chrome for mobile and PC. BTW, it is 'ads', not adds.

posted on 06 Mar 2013, 18:19

50. pongkie (Posts: 538; Member since: 20 Aug 2011)

however how you want to spin it that is how Google works. I understand you like Google but why block their "ads"? you are depriving them ad revenue.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 16:37

27. luis_lopez_351 (Posts: 951; Member since: 18 Nov 2010)

where's the news about Google being a humanitarian? Oh yeah... its as corrupt as apple and M$.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 16:50 1

28. alexzibrit (Posts: 67; Member since: 15 Jan 2013)

Please explain what you mean by corrupt sire, cause my interpretation is most surely different from yours or you are completely wrong

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 18:54 1

34. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)

If by "corrupt" you mean "a business that aims to boost revenue", then sure Google is just as "corrupt" as Apple and Microsoft. But, if you mean corrupt in the dictionary sense, I don't think you have as strong a case.

posted on 05 Mar 2013, 19:00 2

36. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

Another great article. I appreciate the fear part of Google Glass being addressed. I had no idea ppl were saying these things...lol.

posted on 06 Mar 2013, 00:12 1

40. luis_lopez_351 (Posts: 951; Member since: 18 Nov 2010)

@MichaelHeller why bother responding if youre not going to answer my statement. Also, how could you not be a little angry at a gargantuan company that claims to be a saint compared to the other two, but doesn't do a thing about the troubles in the world that uses its technology to make life supposedly more simple. Hell, Google doesn't even bother making android update paths mandatory for manufactures that keep releasing crap thus making consumers lose trust in android. Want to know why that is? because Google doesn't care and its always making money. If that's not the case because carriers are often to blame, then why does the software founder and controller put its stingy foot down. Stop being such a fanboy, everyone knows that all big companies are evil.

posted on 06 Mar 2013, 00:53 1

41. the_v1s1onary (Posts: 1; Member since: 06 Mar 2013)

Ok your statements are so off-base that I needed to register just to reply to you.

1. How is Google being evil? You claim they don't produce technology to make life easier for those who use their services? What? That's why they need your data! Because they need to know what you want so they can show you the money! Also, self-driving cars! Ever heard of them? Hell, Glasses themselves are making life easier to manage. After I buy them, I will not have to carry a camera 99% of the time because I will not need it! That's the very definition of easier.

2. Android is open-source. Therefore. Google cannot force anyone to do anything. They can leverage their own app store and services against their partners sure! But that's business suicide because what's to stop them from continuing as usual with Amazon's apps or finding new reasons to make their own software or even jumping ship to Windows Phone 8, because it sure does seem like Microsoft is paying everyone and their mom to make phones and apps for them. You point is moot anyways because if you want updates, go buy a little brand called Nexus made by, guess who?! Google! Surprise!

3. Google is always looking to make money? You obviously know some magic way of making money with an advertising business without advertising. That is kinda hard in my opinion especially when you have R&D cooking up new tech like self-driving cars, new servers, new mobile designs, Google Glasses, and whatever else you are going to have to fund. Hell, Google is selling devices at a loss. And to do what? To show the other manufacturers and consumers how Android should be. To make your life easier so you do not have to deal with all the crap that you mentioned about Android.

4. We all know the people at Google are not saints, but they are the dang closest you will probably get besides non-profits. Honestly, people call them devils for reading your data that you opted in for when you chose to use their services. What's more is people say this when they offer you a method of opting out of all or individual services. People call them thieves for hiding it in their ToS. Ever read their ToS? It is dead simple. They tell you straight up that they do not read your data with human eyes nor sell your data. Seriously, how about you take off your tin-foil hat and we will talk like adults.

posted on 06 Mar 2013, 03:22

42. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

"Also, how could you not be a little angry at a gargantuan company that claims to be a saint compared to the other two, but doesn't do a thing about the troubles in the world that uses its technology to make life supposedly more simple."













I'm not saying they are saints....but they do think about the world around them. I knew about 3 of these stories, just learned about the others today.


posted on 06 Mar 2013, 03:36

43. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

Lets remember that while Apple and Microsoft has slung mad at competitors in ads...Google never has. If they have.....I havent seen it.

Its either a carrier or an OEM that does, but never Google. iDont commercial? Verizon ad. Maybe Motorola had a hand in it, dont really know.

posted on 06 Mar 2013, 11:30 1

49. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2703; Member since: 26 May 2011)

Big companies are not by definition evil. Google has done a ton of good for emerging markets by bringing better ways to communicate, trade, transfer money, etc to places like Africa and South America.http://www.google.com/africa/

Google doesn't claim to be a saint, but where are your arguments of Google actually being "as corrupt" as the other companies? Android update paths have absolutely nothing to do with corruption, that's just an annoyance.

As I said in my original reply, using the word "corrupt" simply doesn't work. Google is a business, so obviously it cares about making money. That's not corruption, that's the nature of business.

posted on 06 Mar 2013, 07:57 1

45. networkdood (Posts: 6330; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)

I laugh when I read comments or articles that claim Google cannot be trusted. So, Apple and Microsoft are more trustworthy? LMAO.

posted on 06 Mar 2013, 08:15

46. haseebzahid (Posts: 1853; Member since: 22 Feb 2012)

new age of cyborgs coming soon

hmm and when the batteries run out which they will eventually what then we are lost in the world

posted on 07 Mar 2013, 00:32

51. RohanM (Posts: 140; Member since: 15 Jan 2013)

i like the model who is wearing the glasses....... kinda cute.... :)

posted on 07 Mar 2013, 23:02

52. fapfapy (Posts: 1; Member since: 07 Mar 2013)

This article is STUPID as the arguments it berates. Until the product is released, you can only speculate whether the glasses will or will not be a privacy killer, and yet doofey face states that it isn't??1//1 Wha?

posted on 21 Mar 2014, 03:55

53. magnum44 (unregistered)

GG becomes a vulgar attention seeking tool when worn all the time in public places ... for the most part its supposed function is so unnecessary and rather redundant.

posted on 21 Mar 2014, 04:04

54. magnum44 (unregistered)

It is NOT about 'privacy' or 'spying' or 'short battery life (what's that mean anyway?!) or 'Google Glass is evil' ... it's about lack of tact and annoying behaviour in public like staring or pointing your finger at strangers or turning the music loud,etc ... imagine someone holding his Note 3 to his eyes and moving it with his air head for hours on end in malls, shops, streets, restaurants, bars, etc. ... why the camera in GG!? really why the camera?? ... because without it GG would never sell ... it's so uncool and super pretentious to wear this stuff in public ... and this is not a 'myth'.

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