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

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

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.



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.

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54 Comments

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.

3. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

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

10. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 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.

11. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 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. :)

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.

21. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 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.

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.

29. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

And you are the google glasses expert without using one.... Gee!!! I would reserve my comment till i actually own one.

30. bayusuputra

Posts: 963; Member since: Feb 12, 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..

31. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

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

33. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 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.

38. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 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.

35. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 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.

4. dr_fajardo12

Posts: 134; Member since: Aug 26, 2012

conspiracy theory?

6. Reluctant_Human

Posts: 913; Member since: Jun 28, 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)

8. technut

Posts: 205; Member since: Aug 03, 2012

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

26. p5yb0rg unregistered

Do you realize you're not using correct grammar?

32. roscuthiii

Posts: 2383; Member since: Jul 18, 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.

16. Aeires unregistered

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

39. Jonathan41

Posts: 532; Member since: Mar 22, 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.

2. VJo003

Posts: 365; Member since: Mar 11, 2012

Who's she???

5. Smart

Posts: 76; Member since: Aug 20, 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....

7. _Bone_

Posts: 2155; Member since: Oct 29, 2012

Her identity is kept private.

14. disneydad

Posts: 114; Member since: Mar 26, 2012

Perfect avatar for this article VJ. LOL

17. Peter27

Posts: 233; Member since: Jul 13, 2012

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

9. ddmcd

Posts: 1; Member since: Mar 05, 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.

12. htc_prep

Posts: 303; Member since: Oct 09, 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.

13. disneydad

Posts: 114; Member since: Mar 26, 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

15. N-fanboy

Posts: 543; Member since: Jan 12, 2013

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

18. ultimatebatman

Posts: 52; Member since: Dec 04, 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

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