Will Google Glass face adoption challenges due to privacy concerns?

Summary:Everyone seems to have an opinion about Google's ground-breaking product.

Jason Perlow

Jason Perlow

It sure will

or

Should but won't

Ben Woods

Ben Woods

Best Argument: Should but won't

75%
25%

Audience Favored: It sure will (75%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

New social norms

Jason Perlow: Wearable computing has been part of the holy grail of the pursuit towards integration of information science with human interface devices. We've seen its use described in popular science-fiction novels and shown in movies/television (like Star Wars and Star Trek) and its been the fodder of futurists for longer than I can possibly remember.

There's no question that these devices will be used extensively, particularly in vertical markets for specific types of applications where hands-free computing has distinct advantages, such in the medical and military fields as well as breaking news reporting. But products like Google Glass will face numerous adoption challenges because they present issues in any number of social situations where privacy or desire to be "off the record" is most cherished.

Glass and similar products that enter the market because of their potential for recording images and video in a stealthy fashion will be unwelcome anywhere that large numbers of people gather and expect some degree of privacy, and new social norms will have to be developed for their use as well as establishment of etiquette for obtaining the consent of those being recorded.

We won't think twice

Ben Woods: Google Glass in undoubtedly an invasion of privacy. But, however how much noise the man on the street makes, will Google's Glass be welcomed by the buying public? Absolutely. Despite the numerous potential security concerns around Glass, it's price, not privacy, that will determine whether the networked specs will ultimately succeed or fail.

In a world where people have come to expect something for nothing, we've become far too used to putting the convenience of a service above any potential privacy concerns. I'll bet you're no exception: you almost certainly clicked 'accept' without reading the security permissions for that last app you installed, and the email, social networking sites and web apps you use today are likely to be free because you are the product - we're pretty comfortable with giving up our privacy if it's convenient or 'cool' enough.

Think about it like CCTV - there was a time when people declared it the death of privacy, and regardless of whether that was true (then or now), it's now a part of everyday life that we don't think twice about. Ultimately, that's what Google Glass will become.

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Mic check: Are my debaters standing by?

    We start promptly at 11am ET / 8am PT. Readers: Please remember that -- starting at 11am ET -- this page will refresh automatically every time a new question or answer is posted.

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    I am so ready for this


    Jason Perlow

    I am for It sure will

    Ready here, gentlemen


    Ben Woods

    I am for Should but won't

  • Great Debate Moderator

    OK, first question:

    Are the privacy concerns about Google Glass any different than cameras on smartphones? Why or why not?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    They are absolutely different.

    Today, even with cameras on smartphone handsets, recording in certain areas is frowned upon, but at least there is time for the object of the recording to raise an objection and ask for the device to be put away.

    Because Glass is being worn, and might eventually be integrated into prescription eyewear, it's a "stealth" recording device, and the object of the recording may not know they've been captured on video until it is too late, and the device's ability to transmit that footage to the public-viewable cloud nearly instantaneously with a 4G or Wi-Fi connection will make it much more feared than a simple camera with localized storage.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for It sure will

    Will quickly become a normal occurrence

    The concerns around the privacy of Google Glass are just like the ones around cameras on smartphones but when was the last time you heard someone being asked to turn their phone off because it could be taking pictures or recording? Almost never, I'd guess, aside of certain specific situations.

    Privacy concerns are likely to be heightened (at least initially) when Glass hits the streets but the units (and idea) will quickly become a normal occurrence. It might be possible that someone could take pictures or videos more discreetly than with a smartphone, as there's no need to be stood pointing the phone at whatever you're taking a picture of anymore but essentially there's not much difference. The same goes for recording audio too, who is to say that couple sat at the table next to you isn't recording your conversation already using their phone?

     

    Ben Woods

    I am for Should but won't

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Regarding the privacy issue...

    What do you think will happen when prescription Google Glass is being worn in a public event? Will consumers have to carry a pair of dumb glasses?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Prescriptions and patents

    First, we're making a very big assumption that Google can get the eyewear industry to cooperate by licensing this technology. Google is not probably going to want to get into the eyewear business because there are too many styles, and people view their eyewear styles as being a very personal fashion choice.

    That being said, the balance of the designer eyeglass frame as well as the prescription eyeglass retail business as well as the distribution channels for prescription eyewear with the exception of COSTCO, which is a loss leader in this area, is effectively a monopoly controlled by the Luxottica Group S.p.A based in Milan, Italy, which generates over 7 billion Euro in net sales annually, based on their last financial statement.

    Virtually every design patent for every licensed eyeglass brand you can think of is controlled by this firm. If Google even wants to play in this arena, it will be on Luxottica's terms, and if you think Apple is litigious with protecting design patents, just imagine what Luxottica will do if it suspects Google is attempting to intrude on its business.

    More than likely I think that anyone who is serious about using these sort of devices will opt to use contact lenses or elect for corrective laser surgery, and they can simply just remove the device if someone takes offense to it being used. And again, if Luxottica feels its long-term business is threatened by the device in any way potentially that could lead towards a downward trend in the use of prescription eyewear, God help Google.

     

    Jason Perlow

    I am for It sure will

    I don't think anything will happen

    Are you told not to use your phone if you go to a sports game right now? Why should that be any different for Google Glass at any other public event? Perhaps if you wear them into a cinema. I'm sure there are other examples where they might be banned too but mostly already places where you couldn't or wouldn't take out your smartphone camera already.

    So, no, prescription Glass owners will likely be able to get by without reaching for a spare pair of 'dumb' specs in their bag. That's not to say there won't be any though, most people that wear glasses have a spare anyway so I can't see this being an issue.

     

    Ben Woods

    I am for Should but won't

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Google Glass is reportedly based on Android

    Is that a good thing?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Yes

    Android is a known quantity when it comes to software development, so I would have to say yes. However the type of apps we see for augmented reality use are likely to be very different than what is used on a smartphone. I expect these to be more of the "telemetry" type apps that are simply extensions of things running remotely on a Bluetooth-connected smartphone, not unlike how current smart watches work.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for It sure will

    Undoubtedly, yes

    If it wasn't based on Android it would be a cut down version based on something similar, so it's far better that it makes use of the heft of Google's ecosystem rather than starting again from scratch. It also means that the platform is more likely to appeal to devs – a key factor in securing the success of any new device or form factor.

    By providing a familiar OS devs won't be put off building apps for the platform and it also means that the one killer app that everyone needs will arrive sooner rather than later, which is also important so people don't get bored and write Glass off as a novelty.

    There's a lot to be said for a pre-existing, sizable and easily extensible platform – and that's exactly what Android is today.

    Ben Woods

    I am for Should but won't

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The right price?

    Assuming privacy issues are overcome, what is the right price for Google Glass to have mass adoption?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    I think there will be an initial surge ...

    ...for prosumers/professionals and verticals at $800 with a mass adoption price point at about $500, with universal adoption at about $250.

     

    Jason Perlow

    I am for It sure will

    Pricing is always going to be tough for a product like Glass...

    ...it's not as essential as a smartphone (at least, not yet), and therefore is harder to mentally justify splashing out on one, but then it's obviously new tech, aimed at early adopters.

    First round Glass costs $1,500 – I'd expect to see that figure come down to around premium smartphone territory for the foreseeable future. So, more like $500 - $600 range. However,I can also see a situation where retailers offer Glass bundled along with new Android smartphones, which would reduce the up-front cost and get the units into peoples' hands quicker.

     

    Ben Woods

    I am for Should but won't

  • Great Debate Moderator

    How will geotargeting be different on Google Glass?


    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Huge potential for noise

    First, I think (and hope) augmented reality wearable computers are likely to enter the industry by more than just Google, and there will be different ways to market geotargeting. The obvious one will be augmented reality superimposed advertisements that hook directly into Google Ads, but there's huge potential for noise here.

    Google has stated that no advertisements will be allowed in 3rd-party apps on Glass. I think it is highly unlikely that Google is going to make Glass an Ad-free zone. It is far more likely that it intends to reserve ad network promotion for basic device functionality so that app developers cannot abuse the system.

    More likely the advertising on the device will have to be targeted according to the user's Google+ profile and to search context, through queries such as "Okay Glass, show me Pizzerias in a one mile radius." Based on my +1 of Pizza restaurants on Google Plus, I could see the device popping up overlays if I'm near a particularly good one, such as a place with a particularly high ZAGAT rating. And it might even show me Pizza restaurants that have paid for particularly high AdWords placement as well.

    What we think of "advertisement" will be defined entirely by how much Google Juice and Adwords customer is willing to pay for in order to get in front of literally as many eyeballs as possible. These will not be "pitches" for product per se, but jostling for position on an augmented overlay.

     

    Jason Perlow

    I am for It sure will

    It won't change what happens today by too much...

    ...as most of it is already achievable on a smartphone. However it will change the level it works on, and more importantly I think people will be more likely to accept it in Glass than on their smartphones.

    Glass could have a massive potential impact in advertising and marketing, primiarly with the effect that geotargetting will become hyperlocal. Where advertising might now be aimed at people living in a particular place – say London, or even East London if it is being a bit more specific, with Glass you'll be targeted by ads even more specifically, ultimately making use of augmented reality to guide you straight to the door.

    For example, if you search for pizza, it will prioritise the results that are closest or have offers/vouchers available – which will likely drive more custom to that restaurant.

    Ben Woods

    I am for Should but won't

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Revenue?

    What do you see as the potential revenue model for Google Glass?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Context and query-based business visual augmentation

    As I said above, geotargeted and context and query-based business visual augmentation will almost certainly make up the bulk of the revenue model, at least initially. I also see Glass as a supplemental ecosystem for the existing Google Play store, particularly for Android smartphone apps that have the ability to extend their reach into the new device through "telemetry" or Glass-optimized UIs.

    There may be other types of Glass-oriented content that Google is looking for developers to produce that the wearers can consume and can be monetized. Perhaps industry or interest-specific augmentation overlays, much like the way dictionary add-ons for word processing packages were sold to the medical and legal industry in the 1980s.

     

    Jason Perlow

    I am for It sure will

    Local business advertising

    While the initial versions of Glass can't be used for chargeable apps (and doesn't currently accept apps that are funded by ads in any way) that will change in time. So, developers will be able to make money out of Glass in the usual way via paid-for apps or in-app purchases.

    However, for Google, I'd see most of the revenue coming from advertising of local businesses that will pay a premium to be at the top of the listings and other partnerships like that.

     

    Ben Woods

    I am for Should but won't

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Onto logistics...

    Is the supply chain anywhere near ready to mass produce these computerized specs?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    More development needed

    At the moment Glass uses very commodity SoCs with fairly off the shelf display, camera and battery tech. That being said, Google will need to do a bit more development if wants to put devices on the market that are usable for more than just a few hours at a time and can really make use of the life-logging capabilities as opposed to running out of gas after 20 minutes of video recording.

    They will need much lower-power SoCs and more sophisticated battery chemistry, so that the majority of the heavy lifting is done by a wireless tethered smartphone instead. Google can certainly get millions of Glass devices pumped out with the current reference design, but it may not be palatable in its current form due to short battery life.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for It sure will

    Ready in time

    The supply chain might not be ready right now, but it could be readied in time to provide enough components to deliver Glass in large numbers, I'd imagine.


    Early teardowns of the glasses have revealed what we already knew: Glass is about the experience, not the hardware. As a result the tech inside isn't actually as cutting edge as you might imagine. For example, it runs a dual-core processor, uses an older (Ice Cream Sandwich) build of Android and doesn't put too much emphasis on the on-board storage or RAM.

    As a result, there shouldn't be too much of a challenge to get large numbers of the components required to fulfill a swell in demand.

     

    Ben Woods

    I am for Should but won't

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What industries do you see Google Glass being most useful for? Why?


    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Verticals

    As I said in my opening statement, there is a significant vertical pivot in all of this. Medical, Law Enforcement, Private Security, Scientific Research, Pharmeceutical, Aerospace. Any profession where hands-free device operation is an asset.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for It sure will

    Advertising is the most obvious and immediate beneficiary of Glass

    As already covered, it will allow hyperlocal targeting of individuals, rather than just any potential customers nearby, right in their eye line – a prime spot indeed.

    However, going beyond this Glass could be of use to anyone that works in the hospitality industry or regularly meets large numbers of new clients. Imagine not needing those briefing notes anymore because all the relevant info is already right there in front of your eyes.

    The healthcare and medical industries should be able to use Glass to its benefit too – with increased ease of remote diagnosis and consulation, as well as the potential for augmented reality to be worked into those applications in future.

    On a more skeptical note, Glass will also be a boon to anyone working in surveillance – it will know where you are, what you are saying and what you are looking at, at any given time, potentially.

     

    Ben Woods

    I am for Should but won't

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Gauge the potential backlash to Google Glass?


    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    There's already backlash to Google Glass.

    The fact that terms like "Glasshole" and "Doucheglass" are being bandied about already means that the general public finds the product and their users to be obnoxious.

    There will be Glass-Free signs posted in businesses of all kinds and I can certainly see them being banned from any number of public spaces and local ordinances passed which may govern when and where they cannot be used. They will be prohibited from being used in schools due to concerns over student distraction and possible cheating. Government buildings will almost certainly prohibit them as will airport security.

    There will be incidents of "Glass Rage" where people will get into fights over their use. And there are probably scenarios for backlash we haven't even thought of yet.

     

    Jason Perlow

    I am for It sure will

    The potential or feared backlash to Google Glass could be massive,...

    ...there's no getting around that. Most of the usual examples given by people talking about Google Glass could all potentially come true. Will you end up getting in a fight because some guy thought you were looking at his girlfriend? Maybe, but that has nothing to do with Glass, really.

    Will people start asking strangers to take off their Glasses in a café so there's no fear of pictures, videos or audio capture? Probably not. What might happen is that certain businesses (I was thinking cinemas more than strip clubs, but they'll likely be on this list too) will ban Glass from being worn outright, but I doubt there will be many that take such strong measures.

    I'd also doubt tech consumers as a whole will stand up and say no to Google Glass – people involved in tech often want to see the next new thing and, as frequently, like to see it succeed. Somewhat ironically perhaps, these are the people that can see the true affect Glass could have on privacy. The man on the street might take a little longer to wake up to the privacy aspects of Glass, by which point they'll already be on the shelves and selling in droves.

    Ben Woods

    I am for Should but won't

  • Great Debate Moderator

    How will Google Glass alter collaboration and communication?


    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    I'm not yet convinced it is going to raise the bar

    We already have the capability to do pretty sophisticated video chat and video conferencing with smartphones and PCs and it still only has limited use. I think the technology platform has to prove itself before it becomes more than just a more sophisticated replacement to existing Bluetooth headsets.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for It sure will

    Simply, it'll remove one more step between communicating or collaborating

    Now you won't even need to get your phone or tablet out of your pocket or bag, it'll just be there waiting, right at the end of your nose.

    The potential application for collaboration with Glass is huge – being able to share what you are looking at without needing to do anything other than opt to share it would be a massive step forward. There are smartphones now that make it relatively painless to share content across screens in real-time, but something like Glass could take that to the next level.

    It could also have a massive effect on gaming, allowing people to compete in real-time against strangers (or friends) in the vicinity. What will those games look like? I have no idea.

    Ben Woods

    I am for Should but won't

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What's the impact on social networking should Google Glass take off?


    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Clearly this would be a win for Google+ and a blow to Facebook.

    "Liking" and "Friending" people could be an act of simply pointing at an icon floating in space over somebody's head, as opposed to having to look up their profile. Status updates could be dictated and photo sharing services like Instagram could be made obsolete. So it might add some transparency to Social Networking as opposed to it being the chore that it is today.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for It sure will

    There's a theme emerging here...Ease of use

    For Glass to be successful it only has to really achieve one thing. It has to be easier, it helps if it's 'cooler' too, but what it absolutely must be is easier. I believe that, inherently, using Glass to share status updates and check in on social networks will feel a whole lot more slick and, well, social than pulling your phone out of your pocket.

    So in reference to social networking, it will drive further usage of location based social networking features (and new services) and things like that. However, on the other side, it will also probably lead to a growth in the number of people clamping down their social network's privacy settings.

    The number of pictures and videos posted online could potentially grow even more, and with another step removed between taking the picture and posting it online (unlikely as it is that you might edit your picture pre-posting, you do at least have the option to on a smartphone or a tablet) that means there will be even more pictures of you that you didn't intend to end up in the public sphere. Remember that day you called in sick but actually went into town and bumped into someone you knew? It's a shame he just posted "Lovely to bump into Andy" along with a picture on his Facebook wall, isn't it?

     

    Ben Woods

    I am for Should but won't

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Final question:

    Can Google Glass give the search giant something to create a halo effect for Android smartphones, tablets and cloud services?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    It has the potential to enhance their existing portfolio of services...

    ...as I mentioned in the question about the revenue model. It will supplement the existing ecosystem. And I expect Apple as well as other manufacturers and cloud services players to come out with similar devices in order to expand their respective ecosystems as well.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for It sure will

    Not a sure thing

    Google Glass could well create a halo effect for Android in general, not that it particularly needs it. The iPhone is the source of Apple's halo effect and Glass could be Google's, but right now that's not a sure thing. What Glass really needs if it wants to achieve this is The Killer App, the one that you just can't live without.

    It also ties all of the other Google mobility products together. If you've already got an Android smartphone or tablet and/or use Gmail and other Google services without thinking twice, then picking up a pair of Google Glasses instead of say, an iWatch is going to be a no-brainer, plus you'll already be well acquainted (and presumably non-fussed) by any additional potential privacy concerns around the handling of your data.

    Ben Woods

    I am for Should but won't

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Thank you, Jason and Ben

    And thank you, readers, for joining in. Look for our debaters' closing arguments tomorrow, and for my final verdict on Thursday.

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

Closing Statements

Potential for abuse is virtually unlimited

Jason Perlow

Google Glass will make some sort of industry impact in 2014. Whether that is strictly with early adopters, "prosumers" or use in vertical markets, this is difficult to say. It's also hard to tell this early whether or not the product is acceptable in its current form given the limitations it has in terms of battery life and how it might be monetized by 3rd-party developers.

What is certain however, is that there is a nearly universal negative reaction to the life-logging and stealth recording capabilities of the device, and regardless of how cheap Google Glass eventually costs due to efficiency improvements in mass production, it's obnoxious and invasive at any price and its potential for abuse by the ethically challenged and sociopaths among us is virtually unlimited.

 

The privacy argument won't.stop Glass

Ben Woods

The arguments against Google Glass's success are obvious: it violates privacy and it's too expensive.

Arguments on the basis of cost are practically void - one thing that you can bank on with technology is that over time, the cost of most devices will fall, and the technology under the hood in Glass doesn't seem anything too special, so there's no reason to think it will keep its currently ultra-premium price tag.

Google Glass is not the only product that will be released in the next few years that will bring up similar questions about whether or not it violates our collective privacy in a way that can't be tolerated.

The privacy argument would be the best chance to stop Glass in its tracks, but it won't. People are already far too tied in to using free services in exchange for their personal information to even notice it and for those who would put up that objection, the time to complain is getting ever smaller - once Glass is here in numbers, it's not going away.

Privacy doesn't matter

Lawrence Dignan

As much as I think there might be privacy concerns about Google Glass, it's hard to buy the argument that the concerns will derail the product. Ben Woods' argument largely revolved around this: Privacy doesn't matter in the end. Jason Perlow made his case and the crowd went with him. But in the end, privacy doesn't matter. Ben gets the win.

See also:

Topics: Great Debate

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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