Digital Self: Google Glass will magnify privacy debates – and that’s a good thing

google glassGoogle Glass has yet to land in the hands of the public – but our outrage over its potential effect on privacy has already begun. Case in point: Seattle’s The 5 Point Cafe, which announced on its Facebook page early last week that anyone wearing Google’s ultra-newfangled mobile contraption is banned from the bar, to protect fellow drinkers’ privacy.

“For the record, The 5 Point is the first Seattle business to ban in advance Google Glasses,” reads the post. “And ass kickings will be encouraged for violators.”

Dave Meinert, owner of The 5 Point, explained to MyNorthwest that his customers deserve to throw back a few dozen Jager Bombs without fear of inadvertently looking like a douchebag in a YouTube video secretly shot by some hypothetical Google Glass user.

“You have to understand the culture of The 5 Point which is a sometimes seedy, maybe notorious place, and I think people want to go there and be not known,” said Meinert. He added: “Part of [the Google Glass ban] is a joke, to be funny on Facebook and get a reaction, but part of it is serious because we don’t let people film other people or take photos unwanted of other people in the bar because it’s kind of a private place people go.”

The thought of a stranger staring at me with a camera on his face induces a special kind of queasiness.

We could bicker all year about the wisdom and efficacy of The 5 Point’s ban on Glass. Staunch privacy advocates like myself will praise the moratorium as a win for personal space. Glass lovers will call skeptics foolish Luddites, and dub Meinert a hypocrite thanks to the security cameras he reportedly has recording his patrons’ every move – not to mention all the camera-packing smartphones everyone at the bar presumably has in their pockets and handbags.

Who’s right about the bar’s Google Glass ban doesn’t really matter – it’s the fact that we’re talking about privacy in a new way that makes the paranoid in me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Fear of the unknown

When Apple launched the smartphone revolution with the original iPhone in 2007, the technology’s effect on privacy remained a niche talking point. Sure, we had a few clairvoyants sounding the alarm. But talk of privacy violations was the last thing on most people’s minds. We were more focused on the niftiness of the App Store than the fact that we now had the equivalent of a house-arrest ankle bracelet in our pockets. For the most part, we still are.

Such is not the case with Google Glass. Following Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s high-flying demonstration of Glass’ array of augmented reality features last summer, commentators immediately pumped out Orwellian warnings about the privacy-free future Glass is sure to impose upon us all. Now businesses are banning the gadget outright, before it even gets a release date. Privacy is not a fringe concern – it is central to discussions about Google Glass.

google glass

One major reason for these blossoming privacy woes is Google itself, which has built an Internet empire fueled by our personal data. We can rightfully assume that everything we record, photograph, search, or map with Glass will be pushed through the Google pipes. But that’s not all: The new form factor of Glass – glasses loaded with smartphone capabilities – appears to have sparked a concern for personal privacy that didn’t burn smartphones until it was far too late for most people to really care. For some reason, the thought of a stranger staring at me with a camera on his face induces a special kind of queasiness – and I’m clearly not alone.

Go on, be honest

Realistically speaking, Glass likely poses no more threat to our privacy than smartphones, Facebook, credit cards, or CCTV. It’s bad, but not uniquely bad. The design of Glass makes it more conspicuous than Justin Beiber at an all-girls middle school – we’ll know when someone is wearing them. And they even sport that classic little red light, the international sign for “You are being recorded right now, so don’t act like a jackass.” At least you’ll know when your privacy has been violated, which is more than we can say for smartphones.

More than Glass’ relative innocuousness, however, is the fact that we’re preemptively addressing the privacy implications of an emerging technology – which, in turn, stands to ignite a real debate about our sorry, continuous state of observation. The first step to solving our privacy problem is admitting we have one. Google Glass may force us to do just that.

It’s a long-shot, for sure. Once Glass hits stores, most of us will probably just zip past talk of privacy and on to something less stressful – like all the hilarious “fail” videos we just shot of oblivious half-wits with our spanking new pair of Google Glass. But maybe – just maybe – we’ll take this opportunity to revive privacy as a value of 21st century life. And if not, well, meet me at The 5 Point, where we can drink away our fears in peace.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.


Critical Bluetooth security bug discovered. Protect yourself with a quick update

Researchers have discovered a major new security flaw in Bluetooth, which could leave millions of devices at risk of a malicious hack. The attack allows a hacker to “break” Bluetooth security without anyone knowing.

Best smartwatch deals for August 2019: Samsung, Fitbit, and Apple Watch sales

Smartwatches make life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. If you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, here are the best smartwatch deals for August 2019.

Learn how to make your iPhone play local radio in iOS 13

Find out exactly how to use the Live Radio in iOS 13: Our guide will explain how iOS 13 connects to live radio, what commands to give, and how to revisit past stations. Enjoy your favorite live radio right from your iPhone.

Looking for a good cheap phone? Get the Samsung Galaxy A10 for $145 on Amazon

Samsung's A-Series lineup features phone models from the low-end to the mid-tier. One of its cheaper ones, the Galaxy A10, is perhaps watered-down specs-wise but still boasts enough workable features that make it recommendable.

These fraudulent Android apps were downloaded 8 million times

According to a new report from security research firm Trend Micro, a hefty 85 Android apps have been caught serving fraudulent ads that take over the user's screen -- and those apps have been downloaded 8 million times.

Score this Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus with a huge $101 discount at Amazon

If you're thinking about upgrading your phone and not willing to expend over $800 on the S10, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is a great option. It's discounted by $101 at Amazon, dropping its price from $700 to only $599.
Social Media

Spice up your Instagram videos by adding your top tunes to the soundtrack

Have you ever taken a beautiful video, only to have it ruined by some jerk in the background yelling curse words? Here's a list of apps you can use to add your own music to Instagram posts as well as your Story.

Grab the terrific Samsung Galaxy A50 phone for $126 less on Amazon

Samsung is mostly known for its premium Galaxy S and Note Series phones, but it also manufactures cheaper phones through the A-Series. An example is the Samsung Galaxy A50 which not only looks great but also boasts a lot of features.

Best alternatives to Google’s preinstalled Android apps

Want to get away from Google's preinstalled Android apps, such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and Maps? These are the best alternatives to the apps that come with your phone, which are pretty great, but not for everybody.

Sending SMS messages from your PC is easier than you might think

Texting is a fact of life, but what do you do when you're in the middle of something on your laptop or just don't have your phone handy? Here's how to send a text message from a computer, whether via an email client or Windows 10.

Looking for love or just some fun? Cozy up with the best dating apps of 2019

Everyone knows online dating can be stressful, time-consuming, and downright awful. Check out our top picks for the best dating apps, so you can streamline the process and find the right date, whatever you're looking for.

Small companies may differ, but all need good, reasonably priced cell service

There's no single cell phone plan that will suit every small company, but with numerous high quality plans from a variety of major carriers, you will find one that suits your needs. We pick some plans and outline what you need to know.
Product Review

Here's what we think after a weekend with Samsung's giant Galaxy Note 10 Plus

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 Plus is here, and it’s the biggest and best Samsung phone ever. Its key feature is its looks, as it has an attractive rear design, highlighted by the new Aura Glow color, but little else has changed.

Fitbit Versa 2 will reportedly roll out September 15 with OLED display, Alexa

Leaked images confirm that the Fitbit Versa 2 will come with an OLED display and Alexa integration, with more than four days of battery life. A source claims that the Fitbit Versa successor will be released on September 15.