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Did Privacy Advocates Overplay Their Hand with Google Glass?

Privacy advocates are really going nuts. One, this morning, wished I would die (over on Twitter, seriously). Why? They are apoplectic about the future that Google Glass will bring.

In talking to lots of big audiences last week I have come to the conclusion that privacy advocates have overplayed their hand and when everyone else gets Google Glass next year these privacy advocates will end up looking like fools. 


They think we're going to follow them into bathrooms and record "their junk." That's why my bathroom posts got so much play in the press. Really?  You think that? If I wanted to do that I'd rather use my new Android phone, which has a much better camera and, um, can be more easily aimed without grabbing attention. The microphone on my iPhone is better, too, and video is much sharper and isn't quite as wide angle, so I can see more details if I'm trying to be pervy anyway (which I'm not).

They think I'm going to walk by them recording everything they are saying. After getting these that's laughable. First of all, the microphone isn't all that great. Second of all, I have to be right next to you, while wearing this weird contraption, looking straight at you, if I want to grab good video of you, all while the light in the Glass is on (if you are recording Glass' projector is ALWAYS on, which warns you I'm doing something). No, if I really wanted to capture you, I'd just rent a 600mm lens and a parabolic microphone (which is what NFL Football does to make those cool movies where you can listen to the quarterback). I'd just sit across the street. 

Yes, there are fears. When I went through the Passport check in SFO the agent said "are you recording me?" I let him try them on, showed him how to tell if someone WAS recording him, and he felt a lot better. These things just don't freak people out AFTER getting their hands on them the way the privacy advocates have freaked out BEFORE getting their hands on them.

Watch the debate Andrew Keen and I had below at the Next Web last week. The audience simply is not buying Andrew's arguments. 

Now, I will admit, they are a bit strange. Yesterday when I met a fellow Glass wearer ( ) I joked around that we were members of the "borg." There's something to that. They make the wearer look like a cyborg that has given themselves up to the Internet. 

But the "fashion cost" or "giving up your humanity" arguments are NOT a privacy argument. They must be separated out into their own debate. 

Privacy is something else. 

There are already laws to protect your privacy against Google Glass anyway. For instance, in California, it's illegal for me to record your voice without your consent. 

Also, it's illegal for me to take pictures or record videos in bathrooms or ANYWHERE you have an expectation of privacy. For instance, if someone used Glass to spy on you in your home. If they are standing on a public street, though, you probably are fair game. But, like I said, if I really wanted to spy on you Google Glass simply wouldn't be a good tool. It stands out too much right now and the video simply isn't the best quality. A high-end Smartphone would be a lot better way to stalk you. 

So, to wrap this up? Is there a new privacy concern? After wearing these for two weeks I simply think there isn't. The privacy advocates HAVE overplayed their hand and as more and more of you get Glass you'll see just how. Their fears of the future have led them down a bad path.

They should have focused their efforts on companies who are tracking you as you move around the Web. Companies like who don't make it easy to find data collected on you and make it next to impossible to correct that data or have it removed from their databases.

If I were a privacy advocate I would have used Glass to focus people's attention on the companies that really are "creepy" and who are using marketing techniques that are questionable. That's where our attention should be. 

Focusing on Glass just is the wrong place to focus on. You all have overplayed your hand and you'll realize in about a year just how silly you all are looking right now.

One other way to look at it? If you are really seeking to ban Glass, then you must ban all Smartphones with cameras. That just won't fly with mass market audiences in the post-Boston bombing era (you did notice that we caught those two evil people BECAUSE we had lots of photos and videos of the area, right?) In fact, the FBI has new technology to quickly go through millions of photos and video, read about that here:

Is this anti privacy? No. The bombers worked in plain sight on a public street. There's a lot of reasons why cameras are allowed there (and our population simply isn't going to turn around and ban cameras). 

After all, if you look at this image of the Pope in 2005 vs. 2013 you'll see just how far our society has changed:

That's why privacy advocates have overplayed their hands. Our society is already used to having cameras EVERYWHERE and we like it. 

By the way, before you argue that Glass lets me capture images that a Smartphone can't, please do some critical thinking.

1. Is Glass always on? No.
2. Can Glass stream video to public? No (or, at least, not yet).
3. Can I walk up to you recording on my smartphone without you knowing? Yes.
4. Can I walk up to you recording on my Google Glass without you knowing? No. (the projector is on).
5. Can I put a smartphone on the table and record to Soundcloud without you knowing? Yes.
6. Can I record audio on Glass without you knowing? No.
7. Can I attach high-powered microphones to my Glass? No. 
8. Can I attach high-powered microphones to my Smartphone? Yes.
9. Can I zoom the video in on Glass to read what you are reading on, say, the subway? No.
10. Can I zoom the video in on a Smartphone to read what you are reading? Yes. Or, I could even do better and get a small pocket camera that has optical zoom. You'd never notice me shooting you from across the aisle with one of those.
11. Could I walk into a restroom, look at your private parts, while wearing Glass? No way. You'd be furious.
12. Could I walk into a restroom with my smartphone in my hand and be recording you? Yes, you'd never notice.
13. If I wanted to catch you in some other "private" moment, could I do it with Glass? Maybe, but you'd be very freaked out. This "private" moment of me getting drunk was captured by someone at a party, and the photos were sent to Techcrunch: No Glass required. Where were the privacy advocates back then? 

So, do you agree or disagree with me that privacy advocates have overplayed their hands? Keep in mind, we'll revisit this again in 18 months from now when you all will have Google Glass. Choose your words carefully so you look as intelligent in 18 months as you think you look today.
Jean-Louis Nguyen's profile photoFreeman LaFleur's profile photoVicente Goetten's profile photoMichael Markman (Mickeleh)'s profile photo
Glass is like a Dalek, it could kill you anytime. You know when it's going to kill you because it says "exterminate" much like with glass, you know when somebody is going to take a picture when they interact with it and the display is on.

"Exterminate" really should be a command for taking photos in glass...
Any time anyone laments "losing their privacy" (in regards to Glass or just the proliferation of cell-phone cameras in general), I always assure them that they aren't that interesting.
Oh I watched that when it had something like 4 views I agree completely and of course I want one. +Sergey Brin  let me say "exterminate" to take a shot...
In Texas, you only need the consent of ONE of the participants to record a conversation. 
There you go using reason and logic again ;)
Well written and well said. Of course the people who are living in places of heightened fear and concern will see the world through that lens, and respond from that.

And life continues. With greater access to nifty tools. :)
I remember back in 1994 (yes really) when Caller ID was being introduced in Australia.

Telstra, to their credit had a great awareness campaign to explain the changes and how to opt-out and suppress your number.

Fast forward 19 years, and I don't answer the phone if it says "blocked number", and most consumers love the convenience of knowing who is calling.

In this case, the privacy concerns were muted by the convenience factors.
It really is hard to freak out about Google Glass when everyone and their grandma has a smartphone.
Smartphone is more of a risk for privacy. Having said that - I'm not sure whether I'll be wearing GGlass or not (maybe only in certain situations). But surely I won't be freaking out if I see someone else wearing them.
+Robert Scoble thanks for this post - I do agree on the overplay of the privacy and I am writing a piece on the privacy things to think about wrt Google Glass - may just point to your piece
I think heads-up eye glasses are really interesting and wish I had 10K to spare to get a set, but we're dealing with version 1.0 here and now. So I think it is okay to be cautious about the privacy implications of these devices. I wonder if you'll feel the same way about them when the audio and video capabilities improve, as they probably will.
I think the privacy people are just overwhelmed with the way people can and do share already. There are so many new ways (as you point out) to record images and sounds and physical presence for that matter that it is a bit much for some people. We don't yet know what the consequences of all this sharing will be. Will it be great? Possibly. Will it be used for evil? Even the best things are. Some people have the attitude "let's try it and see where it goes." You may be one of the best examples of that. :-) Other people give in to fear and say "why take chances?" It's the way people are.
Ultimately I don't believe that recording pictures, video or sound will be the "killer app" that gets Glass widely adopted. Other apps (GPS navigation) are cool as well. But the real killer apps probably have not been created yet.
Give me an app that lets me look at a student and show me his name and his most recent quiz scores though and I'm in.
My main question is... Is glass going to increase or decrease the number of distracted tech users who absent-mindedly walk into lamp posts???
Excellent argument +Robert Scoble, though it's far from over. Questioning the privacy implications of Glass is certainly valid, but it does need to be done from an informed position, rather than from an hysterical reaction. It's hard to have an opinion though without having had the opportunity to use it as you have, and perhaps that's actually the problem with some privacy advocates overplaying their hand so early on.
Robert, I'm generally with you on privacy, most of the the time. The fact is, that people wouldn't be bothered if much of this was cut and dry, and it isn't. Here are some things that come to mind:

1. Glass has, for the most part, been jailbroken. If it isn't possible, it will be shortly possible to record without any lights or sounds or indications that recording is occurring. If you're a weirdo, this might be your device of choice as the memory and recording power improves.

2. Many places already ban cell phones (or at least the use of) - a community pool locker room comes to mind. There are definite reasons for such actions, and I'd expect these kinds of recording devices also. Places where people have a reasonable expectation of not being recorded cannot expect people to police whether you are, or are not recording with a device.

There will certainly be a time of transition, as is always the case, but like any other device that can record or capture images, privacy will always be a part of the conversation. That will never go away.
Brilliant observations, as usual. I can't wait to get Glass!
Agree with Scoble 99.9%. There are many discreet wearable recording devices that should worry us far more than Glass.
You don't warm up the crowd by going over the top by walking into restrooms, THEN pounding your chest going OH YEAH TOTALLY DOING THIS. It's like an NRA type, purposely going out of their way to be dicks in public, where they have a legal right to do so in some cases. Just because it's legal doesn't mean it makes people feel comfortable. Take some god damned responsibility as an evangelist of new tech. Do that by getting off this moral superiority kick; it makes the evangelism for other people nearly impossible. Because aside from having to convince people of the value of a technology, there's the selling against stupid shower pics and a borderline radicalization and antagonism. The world ain't you.
worst host/anchor ever .... he is not even looking at Robert while talking
Very very well said! I agree with you on the part that it's far FAR more easier to record someone, voice only or video and to photograph someone with a smartphone or some other recording device (smartphone is easier cuz you can pretend you're taking a call or checking messages) than a Glass. It's already happening now. How come not much is being done about this?
Who was that guy doing the interviewing? I thought he came across as a bit of a dick. 
I agree with all of this, but the argument that the mic doesnt work all that well or your cell phone takes a better photo won't be (hopefully) valid for long. Even with top of the line specs, your points still stand.
+Robert Scoble That's a great point that I hadn't considered.  Perhaps it could be activated as an option in the app. Ok Glass, Record Video, Enable Range Microphone. 
If current laws mattered we wouldn't have a gun control debate 
best line was "glassholes a funny name for you"
you had me at apoplectic. I don't worry about the privacy so much as the guy driving down the sidewalk watching YouTube.
The same points again and again. Had an online discussion recently about glass and privacy and the main argument was that all video goes straight to google and is always recording ... when i finally got there i understood what the problem is but its still not true.
+Robert Scoble As someone who was the victim of secretly recorded conversations (by my ex before our divorce), you may be surprised that only 12 states in the US require the consent of ALL PARTIES before a conversation can be recorded (IAMNAL but here's a link How was that done? By mobile phone. Could she have used Glass to do it? NO. Could she have used a rooted GLASS device to do it? NO, because she doesn't have the technical expertise to root/jailbreak a device, which I think accounts for the large majority of people. All that is to say, I agree with you. Mobile phones will be always be a much easier method to violate someone's privacy. And the Privacy advocates are over-playing their hand. I can't wait until the day I can buy +Project Glass . 
+Robert Scoble  I wrote part of an article about Glass for the BBC which included a privacy expert. I haven't seen the final piece yet, I'll post it when it's available. I believe the approach the privacy guy is taking is considering how this will effect putting even more of our personal information online. 

Which is a fair point, I've come out more since getting Glass than I was before. 
Of course if you want a surveillance device there are far better ways to do that. 
Is the main concern not that it's one of the first 'mainstream' pieces of tech to be almost integrated into a human? I think that's what freaks people out the most. It's effectively the next step towards singularity.
Jeez people get over it! You're really NOT that interesting!
Why Google scored big time by handing +Robert Scoble a pair of glass.
1. He is a tech nut.
2. He is always traveling and interacting with NEW people.
3. He is almost always posting to a social network, where he has thousands of followers, and sharing his opinions.
4. He shares his experirnce in all forms, from driving to the controvertial shower pic.
5. When he likes something he really likes it, and will be the biggest evangelist for that product, whether the person interviewing him likes it or not.

If I even launch a tech product Scoble is the guy I want using and talking about it.
Killer textbook marketing move by Google, word of mouth is THE best form of marketing.
There are a lot of guys that post in interesting place on Reddit that must love you.

Like all technologies, this one will also be abused. Glass just has future (not today, not in its current form) potential to be much more invasive. There will come a day when the person on the other side of the glasses WON'T be able to tell. The implications of what happens then need to be discussed now, because there is no shortage of evidence on the web of how that can and will be used. To think otherwise would make one a Pollyanna. 
+Mandelson Fleurival They didn't hand them to him. He dropped $1500 dollars at Google I/O last year to get them when they came off the production line.

Though everything else you said is definitely right on the money.
Agreed. But expected. We are in a state of change right now (on a lot of fronts). So anything that challenges status quo so visibly is going to get attacked. It will pass (honestly you could build a pair of these yourselves with a Raspberry Pi and some micro components).
Let's go back a bit, into the past, when we lived in communities with shared outhouses or crapped in fields right next to each other. People also gave birth in the fields, in front of each other.Privacy is a relatively new concept, and bathroom privacy didn't really exist before the age of the bathroom. Outhouses existed to removed the stench from a home, not for privacy.

I am beginning to think that privacy, like cradle-to-grave job security, was an artifact of a brief moment in time. And it's over. It was over when dads when into the delivery room, when digital cameras and video cameras began to accompany them. The birth of a child is now a recorded event, and if you wish, you can share it.

I agree that identity theft is big, as is stalking. But these are not inventions of Google Glass or Facebook. Well before FB, one of my foster kids stole my identity by grabbing a credit card bill out of the trash. Well before Google Glass or Facebook, I was stalked as a child in New York. These are not innovations brought to us by the internet, or by any of its accompanying technological innovations.

Me? I don't desire privacy. Why? Because all medical research shows that people live longest in communities, with shared lives, with social lives.

With enough eyes, all bugs are shallow. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo...
The privacy arguments around Glass are a bit fatuous. As +Robert Scoble says, there are many smaller higher defintion (or not so small!) cameras that are a far greater threat to privacy.

I really think of Glass as being an enabling technology, and would not be surprised if the technology isn't more ubiquitous than the mobile phone within 5 - 10 years.

The potential of the technology (not necessarily Glass in its current guise) to offer augmented reality and HUDs could revolutionise the way we work & play.

The fact that the technology can also takes pictures / video / audio is a side issue, and a pretty irrelevant one at that.

Glass is the world's first child-like steps in a new era of personal computing... I can't wait until we can run!
+Robert Scoble You made a fool of Andrew Keen.  It's never been more clear how illogical a lot of these "privacy" advocates are.
My problem with Google Glass is the fact that the content produced by this device goes to Google and as we all know anything that you send to Google becomes their property and God only knows how they will be using it for themselves and against us!  Those points make it worrisome!
+Robert Scoble Obviously Keen is one of these guys who is trying to  come across as a smart-arse "I'm-so-tough" type of interviewer. There seem to be a lot of them around these days.
Unfortunately for him, he just ends up looking like a self.centered, arrogant, closed-minded dick.
If he really is, as you say, a "lovable teddy bear" then he should try being himself rather than acting out this pathetic persona. - He might gain some credibility.

Anyway, keep the Glass coverage coming! :-)
I agree with you Robert. I'm much less concerned about Glass than I was about the original Color application (which turned on your phones microphone without you knowing about it). Which bring up another point - are there safeguards to keep an application from turning on the Glass camera or microphone without you knowing and stream data?  
You keep talking about the limitations and capabilities of Glass as if that's what people are talking about. It isn't. What privacy advocates are worried about is what the coming generations of Google's and other companies' implementations will do. The first iPhone wasn't terribly good at taking photos (or many other things) — but you could already see where the technology was heading.

In a couple of years some smart glasses (if unregulated) will be able to do much better quality recordings and they'll have the capability to do so without showing anything visible that they're doing so, and with external batteries they'll be able to do so (especially at low frame rates) all day long.

Basically all your arguments are bunk.
+Frank Malloy To quickly check emails, messages, directions, or one of the many other things that you can do with glass. I can't really imagine me using it to purposely record someone outside of my family. Unless someone was just doing something ridiculous in public. 
Staged brouhaha for effect... because nothing sells like controversy :) Remembering the good old days of +Robert Scoble and +michael arrington duking it out over some topic or another, driving up page-views like mad...
+Robert Scoble The thing that you clearly FAIL TO UNDERSTAND is that once you go down this path, you cannot go back.  It's not the crappy first "model-T-Ford" Google Glass that's the issue, it's the customizable, high-definition, superb ambient mike from-a-distance, infra-red, always on 24x7, unnoticeable stuff that will be EVERYWHERE 5 years from now and for the next few decades...  It's just like the introduction of robots to the war arena -- it creates an environment with an arms-race type of structure where you can only go forward DEEPER INTO THE TERRITORY and you NEVER GO BACK. To see what I mean, look at THIS VIDEO (2009) and extrapolate into this arena: 
Robots and War
taking into account that once you step into that mindset, you end up going far, very quickly...
Boston Dynamics Sand Flea Jumping Robot

Air Force Research Laboratory
Micro Unmanned Aerial Vehicles - Air Force Research Laboratory
Micro Unmanned Aerial Vehicles - Air Force Research Laboratory
+Hugo Diaz yes, but that stuff was already on its way/ongoing well before Google thought of Glass.
People tend to over react and are scared of anything new. Eventually they too will be wearing glass.
+Robert Scoble is once again brilliant. Andrew Keen on the other hand really doesn't come across well here.
I personally can't wait to get Glass, and am fully with Scoble on the privacy issues.
Also, love the way Scoble waves his hand about infront of Glass when describing the menu... like he's got some Glass/+Leap Motion mash up!
.... now there's a start-up for you VC's!
Glenn S
Nicely stated. It's all just techno panic. 
Great interview Robert...I don't know why/how I started following you on Google+ but I am really glad I did. It's like, friendly and appropriate stalking.
Gosh Andrew Keen needs to learn to formulate his thoughts more clearly. Maybe he was just having a bad day, but he had great difficulty expressing what he wanted to say. He appeared to have no arguments. 
It only takes ONE genuine asshole wearing a Google Glass to prove these privacy junkies right.

1. You never know, only wearer knows.
2. Does not need to be public. Just need to be a circle member watching the stream on a huge TV or projected on a screen.
3. But it takes extra effort and you know that s/he is up to something.
4. Yes, IMHO. Is there any indicator that the thing is on?
5. I agree.
6. Why not?
7. Current limitation.
8. I agree.
9. I don't think this is really an issue.
10. See above. The act itself, with or without a device, can be obvious, unless you are more than 5 meters away with a powerful zoom lens. No escaping this.
11. Too obvious and ridiculous, imho.
12. Obvious, too.
13. Yes. 

The thing here is - it is not obvious what the Google Glass wearer is doing, unless there is a way that it broadcasts that it is recording a video, streaming a video or taking a photo (like most smartphone's pseudo shutter sound). Compare this against raising your smartphone to do something about it. You can do it discreetly, but there is an indication that something is brewing. :)

Don't get me wrong, I want a Google Glass. :)
1. Drop the price to <$500 and privacy would be a muted point.
2. Google-like glasses could be made cheaper and lighter by leveraging the computing power of your car/cloud/smartphone/tablet/watch - paired connectivity is assumed.  Stylish, affordable, and functional glasses drive adoption.
Andrew Keen came off sounding a little nasty or 'a jerk' as a previous poster mentioned. God knows why privacy fuels such emotional debates. I think +Robert Scoble did very well to keep his cool and explain things objectively. 
+Rommel Feria there are a ton of creeps that have done precisely the things everyone is worrying about, all without GGlass, and far cheaper than the $1,500 (or some very rich people I guess with high-end equipment for far more). Cameras in bags, shirts/coats, fixed-mounted somewhere have all existed/been used for a good while.

At least Glass, even when jailbroken/hacked, still requires someone to look at you, which is incidentally a pattern deeply embedded in the human visual pattern-recog system, as it is tied to detecting a (potential) predator, human or animal, looking at you. Which is thought to be the reason BTW that people have such strong fears of speaking in public, with dozens of "predator pairs of eyes" looking at them.

If one person abusing Glass' capabilities were enough to "prove" a general argument, then pretty much anything would be provable. It's nearly always about percentages/probabilities.
Zach W.
This seems utterly absurd to me. Put a CCTV camera on every corner, a camera on the occasional stoplight, cameras on the fronts of stores, throughout the stores, and people are okay with it. Give everyone else the cameras, the average citizens, and suddenly, it's as bad or worse than a gun because it can undermine whatever conception of a reputation they had of themselves.

If this entire controversy proves anything, it's the inflated sense of self people have in these more prosperous countries.
Great points +Robert Scoble  - you can record anyone anywhere with a mobile phone WITHOUT them knowing.  They make apps for your phone to secretly record.  Theres a whole host of ways to record someone without their knowing.  It will be interesting I think the backlash will get worse before it gets better.  Since the "haves" and "have nots" are so separated people are really over analyzing it without knowing how it works.  
If anyone is worried about privacy/ being watched they need to stay away from England.
The guy refusing to face or make eye contact with Scobke was bothering the hell out of me. 
I think your point is valid.   Cameras everywhere isn't in itself a privacy problem.

However, when the images those cameras take are used in a context we do not expect them to be used in, then that can be a privacy problem.  A necessary condition for a privacy problem to arise is that the data is used in an "unexpected" manner.

That's why creating large databases of data often can lead to privacy problems.  Large databases "behave" unexpectedly.  They let us do enormously powerful queries, like your FBI example.  Another "unexpected" aspect is when machine learning shows how seemingly innocent pictures exposes things that we thought were private.  Again "unexpected" use.

A privacy issue can also occur because of lack of trust.  Even if we don't know of an "unexpected" use of the data, we can imagine things that the database enables.  In that context, your FBI example can be a privacy issue.  It depends on your trust model.

Good, modern engineering practice can mitigate a lot of these issues, but for now these practices aren't used much in the industry.  At some point that will change, because the cost will come down and consumers will be educated.
+Zach Wilks
I think you're mistaken.  The cameras on every street corner has an implicit context for the imagery.  The feeling of privacy is tied to the context the data will be used in.  Thus what is absurd is to say that a camera is a camera is a camera.  It is what the data is used for, and what we think rationally or irrationally that it can be misused for, that creates our sense of privacy.

Thus everybody having a camera is a completely different situation than say the police having a camera on every corner, or all store owners having cameras in their stores.  I'm not saying one is better than the other, but they are completely different from a privacy perspective.  To make them similar, your threat model must include a real and significant fear that one of the situations can easily morph into the other one.
Zach W.
+Alexander Kjeldaas, as much as I follow what you're saying, it doesn't to me reduce the absurdity of the way the argumentation against Glass is being framed. They're overly concerned with citizen use, but not only have organizations had an overabundance of cameras for years (which I'd argue is largely more concerning), citizens have been gaining ground rapidly with their own personal variants, with hardly as much clamor over them as far as I've heard and read.

At most, I've heard of them being used inappropriately for sexting or drunken recordings or probably something else I'm not thinking of, and it's always been the content of what was recorded (i.e. exhibited behaviors/actions) that was criticized as opposed to the intrusive capability of recording the behavior. I stand by my main point: the discomfort with this on the grounds of privacy of all things is absurd.
The debate on the privacy issue of taking pictures ended at around 9:45 in the video.

“In United States (and other free nations), if you're in a public place and I'm in a public place, I'm allowed to take your picture and you can't say #$%! about it.  It is legal.”  +Robert Scoble

The rest of the video dealt with Andrew Keen really discussing emotional reaction to technology under the guise of privacy matter.  Why did he do that?  Like I said, Robert ended the privacy debate at 9:45 into the video.
Recently I sat opposite +Robert Scoble who was wearing Google Glasses and as we spoke he made a gesture on the Glass frame that may or may not have taken a picture or recorded the subsequent conversation. Alternatively he may have checked an incoming message, been toying with his new gadget or all of the above.

Knowing him a little bit I'm not actually concerned either way as he isn't a sociopath. Plus, everything I may have said to him I'd be comfortable with being on the record.

Either way, the Google Glass privacy subject has become a a mass debate level.

Without commenting on any particular commentators (other than Scoble who has treated me and others with ongoing respect) the debate is now centred around whether a wearable technology (in this case Google Glass) is capable of recording private lives and is that OK? What does it mean and is privacy over? Etc.

On one side of the debate there's an argument that we now live in public and should assume everything is recorded, on the other there's an argument that our lives are mainly mundane and there's no point in recording our pointless existence.

To add a dimension to the Google Glass privacy debate, there's an argument that the technology isn't capable of being as sneaky as we fear, however some also argue it already is.

At the time of writing the debate of Google Glass and privacy is gaining such momentum it has reached a point where the commentary is so nuanced it may be hard to historically un-pick the context of what was (is) being said.

So here's a de-noise of the Google Glass privacy debate. For the record.

As of May 2013 the debate has inadvertently transcended into two of Aristotles non linguistic fallacies.

Yes, the conversation itself is fundamentally flawed in its reasoning. Here's how:

The Non Sequitur

This is also known as 'Affirming the Consequent" and is an incorrect assumption where A means B so B must mean A.

"If I'm in London then I'm in England so if I'm in England then I'm in London"

Put into the context of Google Glass:

"If privacy can be exploited with Google Glass then Google Glass exploits privacy"

Secundum Quid Et Simpliciter

This is also known as 'In Certain Respect' and is an incorrect assumption based on A being an attribute of B so therefore A is an attribute of C.

"There is money in my pocket, so there is always money in my pocket"

Put into the context of Google Glass:

"If Google Glass can't record private conversations easily today then it's not a risk to privacy in the future"


Due to these two fallacies the current argumentation is fruitless to follow and to reason.

In reality the Google Glass and Privacy question is a question of ethics.

Assuming it is possible, is it right to record data without the other person or entity knowing?

This singular question is purely subjective and contextual, thus infinite and non-conclusive.

As far as to whether Google Glass can be instructed to perform 'privacy invading stuff' now or in the future, the question remains in place regardless due to the fact that the product does not instruct the 'privacy invading stuff'.

The rest is noise, leaving only the ethical question as signal upon which to discuss, remembering there is no conclusion as each person's ethical values are individual.

Google Glass Privacy De-Noised.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum.
Privacy is just a cover, a defense mechanism for people who are getting Glass. People naturally want to feel like one of the cool kids, that's why us explorers are paying through our nose for Google Glass. The people who are not in the cool kids club need to discredit us in order to not feel left out.
+Jonathan MacDonald I'm right with you on the first two parts (that's roughly what I meant by "probabilities" in my reply to Rommel Feria above), however  I differ on your conclusion that it is ONLY a matter of ethics, or that no useful conclusions can be reached (again, based on averages / probabilities):

There is the very real issue of wide-spread data collection by Google through this technology, which as has been pointed out further up (and for months in a few G+ Communities I frequent) could have truly unintended consequences. Since this part is largely a black box, and also mostly independent of individual user behavior and intent, it becomes a question of Google's ethics, and the ethics of third parties it may be asked/forced to comply with.

So any and all declarations by Google to that effect are relevant ("We won't be using cloud-gathered data in this XYZ way" etc.), and could set the global tone of the ethics debate. Also, Google could voluntarily open up its "data dossier" that it has on you for you to view and even edit (I've long argued that the Web company that first does this will win big time with users).

An example of a gray area with the individual behavior I perceive if Glass is used to record drivers/cars by other drivers as a matter of course, for any infraction real or perceived, which could be instantly uploaded to "911" as evidence, for further eval there.

Things like reckless driving, following too closely, smoking car exhaust, poorly affixed items on trucks or roof racks, etc. Now most of these are a real concern and/or illegal, and there is as far as I know no expectation of privacy in the U.S. on public roadways, but it DOES have the potential to turn everyone into a "blockwart" of sorts. It becomes a not-quite-"precrime", but real-time crowd-sourced "misdemeanor" (plus or minus a notch) citizens brigade unit.

Not that much of this wasn't possible/happening already in some ways (e.g. in Germany people will happily turn each other in for overtaking on the right, which is illegal on the Autobahn, and highly frowned upon because very dangerous at the high rates of speed in the fastest lanes there). But again it is about speed and ease with which this sort of thing might happen.

Interested in your thoughts.
Wow that guy interviewing you really has his own style... Not sure i liked it too much but you were a good sport about it +Robert Scoble , good talk.
IT just doesn't add up: How can Glass be more intrusive than a smartphone regarding privacy?
I think the term 'Privacy' needs to be redefined. I'm waiting for the first person to be arrested capturing illegal, illicit or immoral images and then the debate will really begin. It's not about those who occupy the moral high ground. Those who will take this device down into the mud will get the press and control the headlines.
Privacy is non existent in this world. The fact that glass will be added to the mix is really just more of the same. Only a very small percentage of people hack their cellphones and it's going to be the same for glass. 
Does Google Glass have a digital 'zoom' function?  Presumably it would be possible, conceptually it would be awesome and definitely anyone worried about privacy would brick themselves...
+Hugo Diaz The "arms race" you describe started when man discovered how to fashion and use tools.
+Alex Schleber We're completely aligned I think. Your (very well reasoned) comment is an expansion of some of the ethical options, all of which revolve around the question I set which is "Assuming it is possible, is it right to record data without the other person or entity knowing?"

This isn't to commoditise or over-simplify the issue but to zero-in on the main thing, and the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing :)

Ontologically there is no conclusion as each person's ethical values are individual.
+Robert Scoble I'm curious if you've heard +Jeff Jarvis' thoughts on Glass (relating to privacy)? I haven't seen anything from him discussing privacy, but I have a feeling he has a lot to say about it.
Keep doing what you do Roger!!.   As a regular person, I would prefer not ending up in people's videos.  If I am in Public, fine.   
I must admit I was also afraid of privacy issues. I even wanted to forbid the use of these devices in my home. But as usual: ignorance = fear. I've read reviews, watched tech blogs and of course your updates. And I now think these glasses (in their current form) do not pose a greater threat than a normal smart phone.

Can't wait for some competition and really good apps (e.g. Vine seems perfect for Glass). Oh, and the price needs to go down...

Can someone please get the host a coffee or espresso he sounds sleepy
like I said, if you're in the stall next to me with the ability to blink and take a photo, i'll slap you back to last century.
Zach W.
+Jonathan MacDonald, if I remember your prior comment correctly, then I think this thought still applies: don't we already have some trails laid out for these very issues, making them non-issues to begin with? As +Robert Scoble points out in the video above, there are already basic accepted situations when devices such as this may be used and basic situations where they may not be.

Or am I missing some element of your proposition?
Scroble broke the social norms like a media whore crying for attention
Reality is it's becoming an opt out world. In the UK there's 1 CCTV per every 32 inhabitants and that's a 2 year old stat. Approx 1.9m cameras in 2011.
+Matt Milsap you don't get it, do you? We live in an Attention Economy... everyone including yourself is angling for some of it. Scoble is just better at it than you, and here you are, crying on HIS thread...

Is casually calling people "whores" part of your so-called "social norms"? (And also: let's leave the ladies and your misogyny out of it, shall we?) "Slapping people back to last century"?!

Newsflash: No one cares about your likely tiny junk. No one gives a dear... now go use it to go pee, like a good boy.
Hi Robert. Inventor Ric Richardson here. The Glass privacy issue could be solved with a little automated plastic shutter that covers the lens when not recording. If its hard coded to not allow recording of audio then all this none sense about privacy can go away. Why kill a great idea over a piece of plastic?
Anyway. Hope this helps support your argument. Ric
Is this Andrew Keen that dumb or is he just acting?
Once you get root on Glass you can do anything, including monitoring the user without their knowledge, says ZDnet. It's not what the ethical will do, it's what others will do.

"if you are being recorded, it's readily apparent from video activity being reflected off the wearer's eye prism that something is going on, particularly if you are in close proximity to the person.

But that can be changed once a Glass headset is rooted. "

Will facial recognition become commonplace on Glass? If so, then prosecutors, law enforcement, federal agents. and the like may have serious security issues. They don't want to be identified when they're out shopping with their families.

Friends just took their 13 yo daughter's cell phone away after an older creep contacted her in a chat room and was texting her saying he loved her. They reported it to the FBI. With facial recognition, a creep could just take photos of girls walking out of Jr High, ID then, find their Facebook page, and probably where they live.

Am I being paranoid? I don''t think so. The combination of Glass being rooted and facial recognition opens up some nasty doors.
thanks for post, how many children do you have?
+Frank Malloy Assuming I had Glass (I don't) and assuming you were sitting across from me on the subway (you aren't), what kind of narcissism would it take on your part to assume I'm wearing them for the express purpose of recording a video of you picking your nose? I mean seriously, when did we all become so self-involved to assume that everything anyone else is doing is being done to inconvenience us or to invade our privacy or to complicate our lives. IT'S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT YOU, TRUMAN!
+Bob Morris, everything you described as being worrisome about Glass can or already has be done with cellphones and was being done well before mobile phones existed. Technology - past, present, or future - is irrelevant.

As +Jonathan MacDonald so eloquently highlighted, there are ethical people and there are unethical people. That has been, is, and always will be true. Better to spend your time thinking about how to deal with people's choices and behaviour than about which tools they find in vogue.
Little stuck up this Andrew keen. In England, they have cameras all over public places recording 24/7. What about public privacy there? Hypocritical. You should complain to James Cameron about it.
I watched about 5 minutes of that interview before I got bored of that idiot Andrew Keen being a shit. 
Those 20 minutes were painful to watch. It's one thing to play devil's advocate as an interviewer, but Andrew Keen didn't want to hear any of it. His bias drove the entire interview - too bad because +The Next Web could've made it an interesting  conversation.
Andrew Keen is living in the past and hoping things don't change. Change is inevitable. Wearable computing is inevitable. Implanted computers are inevitable.
I regret so much for not buying Google Glass last Google IO...
Not persuaded by arguments that rest on the current tech limitations of Google Glass. Don't we all expect the camera and microphone to get better over time? Isn't that how things go?
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