Google Glass: You'll kiss your privacy goodbye, and you won't mind a bit

Google Glass: You'll kiss your privacy goodbye, and you won't mind a bit

Summary: I'm going to record you walking down the street, then when you sit down in that coffee shop, I'll film through the window, and then, if I'm still here when you leave, I might film you walking off again. You don't mind do you? If Google Glass succeeds, you really have no choice.


Google Glass is causing quite a stir, and rightly so. However, the search giant's networked specs are creating a buzz as much about the threat to privacy they pose as about the new era of wearable tech they look likely to usher in.

The specs are yet to be released, but Google promises they will let users browse a map, check their mail, record a video directly from the headset, without lifting a finger. But will Google Glass' ability to (almost) silently take photos or videos using the glasses make the general public uncomfortable? After all, there are some conversations or situations you'd rather not have a Google Glass wearer inadvertently record and upload to YouTube.

Think about it for a minute. These glasses can instantly capture and store every move of everyone around the person wearing them. Remember that drunken argument you had with your partner? Well, now Google Glass will mean you have no possibility of forgetting it. If it's entertaining enough, or you're well-known enough, the video of that argument could well be on YouTube before you get home. Do you do a lot of business on the phone while out and about or while sitting in coffee shops? Will you continue to, if you know that every call could be recorded by the stranger sitting at the table opposite, staring innocently at the picture on the wall behind your head?

Check out this video (warning: there may be some swearing) of 'surveillance camera man,' who goes around passively filming people in public places. These videos demonstrate exactly the problem Google Glass and other wearable tech presents: people don't like being filmed in public, regardless of what they're doing.

The issues of Google Glass, however, go one step further than this: instead a man holding a video camera that you can clearly see, with Glass you won't even know it's happening. What if when the seemingly inevitable happens and a security flaw is found that lets an intruder take control of Glass — in that situation, it's plausible that even the owner won't know what they're recording.

While wearable — or even embeddable — tech such as Google Glass is still in its infancy, will these privacy concerns impact its future prospects? Are the technological advances enough to outweigh any erosion of privacy?

No huge change?

Question over "whether it's intrusive or not is one of these things that feels more intrusive now than it actually is. It's not a giant leap, or a huge change from things you can do now with a phone or with other things, except it's a little bit more invasive and there all the time, potentially," Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor of business psychology at the University College London (UCL), told ZDNet.

While Google Glass replicates functionality already found in smartphones today, people are more wary specifically because it is glasses that are being used to augment reality, Chamorro-Premuzic said.

"Symbolically it feels a lot scarier than it actually is, because it's what you're seeing and glasses are meant to be there to enhance reality. But, instead of enhancing reality, it seems to enhance people's observational powers into worlds that we maybe think should remain private."

While Chamorro-Premuzic is largely at ease with the idea of Google Glass he also noted an interesting quirk in the British psyche that may help Google Glass to succeed.

"In Britain people have this really interesting ambivalence where on the one hand we like to be very private creatures and everybody minds their own business. We don't reveal much or ask much to others, but on the other it's also a very 'nosey neighbour' nation" he said.

"The Big Brother series were more successful here than anywhere else, but that's because we feel so repressed about being observed or observing others that when we can let go of our inhibitions a little bit we take it to the other extreme. I wouldn't be surprised if they [Google Glass] did quite well here."

Google Glass: Evolution not revolution

While we are only at the emergence of devices such as Google Glass, the hardware is symbolic of the wider issue of trading our privacy and personal information for convenience. Every time someone signs up for a free email service or a social networking site, they are swapping convenience for privacy. With Facebook blasting through the billion user mark in the second half of 2012, the amount of people happy to make that trade shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

"People will tell you that they are a lot more worried about privacy than they actually are. Google Glasses are no different to someone who has dark shades and is looking at you and you can't see them [looking]. On the other hand, if a person jumps on a train or tube and stops making eye contact or looking at people around them but then goes on Facebook to check out other people and their profiles, that's kind of the same. This kind of intrusive element that technology has introduced occurs more online than offline," he said. "That might be the most progressive thing about Google Glasses — it's [this intrusive element] getting closer to the physical reality because it's out there, where our eyes are."

Ultimately, Google Glass will succeed: technology will win out over the potential privacy concerns in this case. The use of email, maps, cameras and everything else on smartphones is already far too engrained in our lives to stop that functionality being put in wearable tech, but when it does we'll collectively be agreeing that the possibility of being filmed in public without our knowledge is just fine.

Topics: Google, Emerging Tech, Privacy

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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  • Let's "face" it....

    Google wants to know where you are so they can target ads at you. Google Glass is a perfect way for them to get this information--and get the ads to you. Very clever, Google.
    • Of all the GG articles...

      ...I have yet to see any of these articles mention that there are already glasses the can record stills and video out there. Thing of it is, these camera glasses are much cheaper than Google Glass, but I have yet to hear the same stink about them. They have been available for years now. All the advances in tech are just advancing the capability of our tools, they will be used for good and evil because that's the way humanity is. The tool itself is neither inherently good or's what the person does with it.
      • Do those other glasses feed info back to Googleland so it can be analyzed?

        I don't think so. In the case of GG, it's not just "the person" wearing them who's involved.
      • Model's name?

        Does anyone know the name of the model who wears the Google glasses? She's gorgeous
        • not ready for that

          Here's why I think we are not ready for such a technology. Let's imagine someone is wearing one of those in a netting or any gathering, how can everybody else knows what he is looking at or interacting with?. My point is that a device like a phone, even it can become very annoying to have friends that constantly look or type on their phone, it remains more personnel, more subtle. A phone is not modified or augmented reality, it's simply a tool that your use and that doesn't change the way we use our senses. But Google glass is. Google glass displays constantly that their owner are can be looking at the world from a very different perspective, through a layer of information that normal sight doesn't provide.

          I don't that we are ready to accept a such technologically enhanced human being.
    • People forget this

      Google is an AD COMPANY.

      Nothing they do isn't based around that as a business model.

      Google is no different than the US, UK or Chinese government, except in what they do with your private data.
    • People forget this

      Google is an AD COMPANY.

      Nothing they do isn't based around that as a business model.

      Google is no different than the US, UK or Chinese government, except in what they do with your private data.
      • ADs..

        We see ADs everywhere nowadays... It's on the news, on the mags, on buses, subway, outdoors... Damn... There's ads anywhere you look, it's almost becoming another color itself... So don't blame google being the biggest AD player in town.
        • add is the not the issue

          ....It's how it is broadcast to you, after you have been profiled, spied, analysed. If you agree with such a concept than I feel bad for you. How can the leaders of the free world can forget how liberty can be important and how personnel information is not something to mess with.
    • Your tinfoil hat appears to be on too tightly...

      It has restricted blood flow to your brain. Google isn't out to get you.
      • No, only your information!

        So they can target your personal preferences with their adds.
        Mind you, I do use Google Search and have found both the free links and the paid links to be very handy.
  • Pervert device.

    The video recording function should be disabled before this is sold, Most people won't appretiate being recorded without permission.

    "Ultimately, Google Glass will succeed: technology will win out over the potential privacy concerns in this case"

    - I doubt it, it's camera fitted on your glass that responds to some silly voice commands
    • Except anyone with a smart phone

      can already record anybody, anywhere, any time. Why is the camera being in a pair glasses any different.
      I can pretend to be texting while using the camera, so can anybody else.

      Why not advocate for disabling video in your phone?

      We all crossed this bridge years ago, nothing new here.
      • "We all crossed this bridge years ago, nothing new here." I didn't

        Why not advocate for disabling video in your phone?

        We all crossed this bridge years ago, nothing new here.Why not advocate for disabling video in your phone?

        We all crossed this bridge years ago, nothing new here.
  • Yes

    I agree with the focus of this article. Does anyone remember when people flipped out about GPS tracking in smartphones? No? I figured.

    If I could afford the $1500, I would've bought GG. I can assure you if the price comes down on later generation models after they hit stores, I will be buying one.

    Those of you who are still worried about privacy, why are you even on the Internet, or using any real online email services? Or Facebook. Twitter. Any online service these days crushes privacy.
    • Why do you want this, anyway?

      To be nosy? To take people's pictures without their permission?

      Are you some kind of peeping tom or what...
      • Not at all..

        The camera isn't the only part of GG that exists. The parts I'm interested in are the social/messaging functions, Maps integration, etc. Convenience.
        • Yes, all innocent

          That's the typical excuse.
          • Troll...

            It's his business why he wants to buy this product and how he'll use it. So sit down, shut up and leave the real conversation to the adults.
          • What?

            Still no can do?