“Privacy? Screw that.”

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Er, Google glass?
PHOTO BY PETER KAMINSKI VIA FLICKR

At a party the other night, somebody convinced me to try out Google Glass. I let curiosity get the better of me, succumbed to peer pressure, and put the frames on my face for a few seconds.

A floating, illuminated square appeared in the top right corner of my vision, containing a few lines of text. One said, “take a picture,” and when I spoke those words out loud (it took two tries), the tiny screen filled with the face of the person I was looking at, outlined by tiny camera brackets. My reality was instantly frozen in the tiny floating screen and, I can only presume, whisked off to the servers controlled by that increasingly ubiquitous presence in our lives, Google. Just like every other time I’ve ever snapped a picture on my smartphone, only with less effort.

Even weirder than donning a pair of the geeky gear myself was going into Vesuvio last night and spotting a normal looking, middle-aged man sipping his drink and sporting Glass like it was nothing. At Vesuvio! I began to ponder. What if everyone in the bar had been donning the wearable computers, and streaming? Would bits of my conversation have floated through electronic channels and reached the ears of eager listeners? What if, halfway through my whiskey drink, I had one of those moments: I didn’t know the mic was on. I didn’t even know there was a mic!

If you are fond of gossiping and drinking in bars in San Francisco, it is possible that you will encounter this problem some day. At present, there’s little to stop anyone from walking into a bar and streaming their surroundings directly onto the Internet with a smartphone. However, Google Glass blends our machines even more intimately with our realities, and further increases the ease with which an individual's experience can be instantly disseminated to the networked world.

Apparently, several members of Congress have taken an interest in Glass, sending a letter to Google to inquire about the privacy implications of the new wearable computing device. According to CNET:

“One question the group wants answered is how Google plans to prevent Glass for unintentionally collecting data about users without their consent. They also want to know what proactive steps Google is taking to protect the privacy of non-users when Glass is in use, as well as whether Google has considered refining its privacy policy. And they're curious to find out how Glass will use facial-recognition technology and how much privacy is considered when approving new apps.”

Privacy. It’s heating up as a focal point for activists, and evidently some of them have slick graphic design skills. Witness the international demo release of Data Dealer, billed as “the gleefully sarcastic game about privacy:”

According to press materials accompanying the release:

“A small team from Austria has developed the new online game Data Dealer which addresses issues of personal data security and privacy in a completely new, highly ironic and humorous way. At first glance the game looks similar to popular Facebook hits like Mafia Wars or Farmville. But in Data Dealer players face a very different challenge: the provocative goal of the game is to collect personal information about millions of people - and ruthlessly sell it to clients of all kinds. The game is targeted at both young people and adults. Data Dealer is an online game about collecting, combining and selling personal data – and therefore a playful exploration of online privacy issues.”

Comments

walking down the street talking into mobile phones. I thought they looked like inmates of a mental asylum (especially the hands-free ones that made them look like a crazy person talking to themselves).

I'm sure in 20 years time, nobody will think anything of this either.

As for privacy, if you're in a public place then you have no reasonable expectation of privacy, and various bars, clubs and restaurants have CCTV. If you're that bothered about your privacy, stay home and don't use the internet - problem solved.

Posted by Guest on May. 17, 2013 @ 10:23 am

Legally, you have limited expectations of privacy in a public space (although many indoor spaces have more privacy protection.) But I think you have, and should have, a limited expectation of privacy in a bar. I think you should expect that quiet, private conversations with other people aren't being taped and distributed and that, absent a criminal investigation, photos of you aren't being streamed.

I don't think that's unreasonable at all.

Posted by tim on May. 17, 2013 @ 11:35 am

think it is perfectly reasonable for people to photograph them, film, them, record them etc.

My rule for speaking and acting in public is very simple. I do not say or do anything that I would not want to see on YouTube the next day. Because in any crowd these days, there are people taking pictures and filming events (not to mention CCTV of course, although there is no sound there).

Now, if I'm having a private conversation in a bar then I might indeed resent someone listening in, in much the say way as it really pisses me off when some stranger butts into the conversation, as sometimes happens.

But then again, if I've got something really personal and private to say, I'll take steps to ensure that nobody can hear. A bar really isn't the place to admit to something serious.

Posted by Guest on May. 17, 2013 @ 11:51 am

It might not have been a full twenty years ago for me -- but certainly ten -- that I realized that everybody walking around with cell phones represented a perfect implementation of the Big Brother world described by Orwell.

The proliferation of microphones and cameras in these handheld devices run on software which can be altered to make them operable by remote control. Indeed privacy in public places can be illusory, but in the past it was more obvious when we were being recorded. The attempt to dismiss discussion of this issue is tantamount to cheering our loss of privacy.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 17, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

or photographed from a considerable distance away, obviously without your knowledge.

Sound can similarly be captured from a surprising distance, and you can find such devices in any good spy shop.

In my more mischievous moments, I turn my tpys onto my neighbors or people walking by. It's perfectly legal.

Posted by Guest on May. 17, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

How is this categorically different from walking into the bar with a tape recorder in your pocket? I get that it's like 'omg it will be on the internet INSTANTLY' but that's more about the speed of internet information than the legality of the recording

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

How is this categorically different from walking into the bar with a tape recorder in your pocket?

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2013 @ 12:13 pm

pictures and recordings of people acting like an ass in bars since, well, bars were invented.

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2013 @ 12:44 pm