Google Glass and my new Pedego bike

Google Glass and my new Pedego bike

I wrote the following post to my students today about privacy, a surveillance society, embedded and invisible technology, and Google glass. Thought I would re-post it on my blog too.

This is not the best picture of me, but here I am wearing Google Glass with my new Pedego electric bike! Woot! The GPS function has really helped me find my way around the island without having to take my eyes off the road. But, here is a conversation I have a lot when wearing Google Glass:

Person: Are you recording me?

Me: No. Why, should I be? You doing anything YouTube worthy?

Person: haha. Doesn’t it record all the time?

Me: No, that would be a waste of battery, storage space and time 🙂

Person: but you can look up information about me, can’t you?

Me: sure, the same way I might Google you on the internet, but you would know because I have to talk to it! It does not have face recognition or anything like that. Let’s Google you, shall we? “…. OK Glass …. Google Person.”

Person: Wow, I see a light on it!

Me: Yep! It would be rather hard for me to do anything on Glass without you knowing – you would have to be not looking at me 🙂

End of Scene (and yes, I have had this conversation more times than I can count or remember).

Since before Google Glass came out, we were bombarded with articles about how Google Glass would invade our privacy. Companies jumped on the bandwagon to ban the device from their restaurants, see the 5 point Café, and there were lots of funny videos showing a man trying to scam pick up women using their Google glass. Of course, nobody knew what the hell they were talking about, and most people are still in the dark about the devise.

As we have learned in our textbook, what we need to be aware of is invisible technology and embedded technology. This is technology that is no longer on our radar because we don’t pay attention to it. Cameras on the street, being spied on at work, and so on and so forth. They are part of our everyday lives, like cell phones taking pictures here and there and everywhere.

Technology that we can’t see, or we simply ignore, that is what we should be worried about when it comes to surveillance, not technology like Google Glass. Google Glass is in your face and it can’t do anything more than your cell phone can do – and it does it more obviously. I have to give Google Glass verbal commands for it to work, although I can take a quick picture by taking my hand and pushing the button at the top of the glass. You will know if I am Googling you! You would not really know this if I was using my cell phone – I could do that in front of you, with a smile on my face, and you would not have a clue!

When it comes to voyeurism and invasion of privacy, be worried about the technology you cannot see, for example: a camera in a shoe. Here is a technology that has been around for years and years, and is being used ALL the time!

Although there are many lessons I want you to take away from this class, here is the lesson I really want you to take with you – the danger of embedded and invisible technology, ideology, and habits. Question what is not being said. Question what is not being seen. Question what is being left out of an article, a book, an argument and so on. The fact that it seems invisible, that’s what’s important. Technology and surveillance that you don’t know exists, or that becomes so every day that you don’t question it, you should be worried about that.

Think about it. I challenge you all to spend ONE day this weekend acknowledging all the recording devices you are exposed to: red light cameras, cameras in stores, all the time somebody takes a picture with a cell phone or portable camera, the use of cell phones, and so on and so forth. Be aware of the invisible technology in your life.


Google’s New Privacy Policy and Wider Concerns

I spent the morning reading Google’s new privacy policy, which becomes active on March 1, 2012.  After reading the policy and also reading other views on the policy, such as articles, I have come to a few conclusions!

Information Control

Yes the policy on how much information they gather from you is scary, but not any more than any other company that gathers info from you, including Microsoft, Yahoo, and so on.  So what is the difference?

  •  Google is a huge company with lots of services, and so information is centralized.  

Question:  Have you read all those other policies you have agreed to in the past?  Not likely. I often  joke about it: “Well, there I go giving up another child to Apple,” I say as I imagine Apple’s new policy updates to be a lot like Rumpelstiltskin – offering tempting items at a horrible price.  Although educated, I also do not understand what I am reading with many of these agreements.  So, did I really agree to the agreement I agreed to?  I am not sure.  Is it legally binding if I did not understand what I signed?  +sigh+  But I digress.

So we have three particularly important issues: A) information with Google services is now centralized, meaning they can connect the dots about you more easily.  Big is scary and the bigger one gets, and the more power one has, the more scary that entity becomes.  Power corrupts and Google’s hope to “do no evil,” is less likely.  B) Likely for the first time, you are able to read the privacy rights you are giving up.  These are not new surrenders, but readable rights of privacy, which is scary.  It is easier to ignore what we cannot understand. Plain English makes it super clear

C) “Wishy-washy” language leaves us all on uncertain grounds as to what constitutes reasonable attempts to keep information private and accurate.  With that said, what really worries me, and it is something that Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft all do, is how that information will be processed. I will quote from the new private policy for this one:

“We also use this information to offer you tailored content – like giving you more relevant search results and ads.”

  • Worry number four: Google will be narrowly targeting our likes, dislikes, and interests.  Again, Google is not unique on this, but given the centralized mode of information collection, they are the most efficient at this.
On the outside, this seems good.  When I search for something, Google will look at all the collective information it has about me, and return specific results tailored to my preferences.  How awesome is that?  It is like having a conversation with a very close friend who knows you SO well, that he or she can fill in all the blanks to a silent conversation.  It is also cool that Google can help me coordinate and organize events using this information, let me know the closest pizza joint, and so on.  I like that.
But I also think this sucks. Sucks in a giant way.  I go to the Internet for information …. diverse and complex information. For me, the Internet = the most awesome complex research organism in existence! Now, sometimes I want direct results, such as directions to a Pizza place, but more often I am looking up ideas, news, and concepts.  I am exploring information and if I am given only a narrow sliver about that topic or news, I become a narrow person.  I may be liberal, but getting only liberally targeted links to news, blogs, and articles will help to create a limited and non-critically thinking being.  
But Google is NOT the only company to do this.  Look at Facebook and the type of messages and wall posts you see on your FB wall.  It is not targeted to provide you with information only about SOME of your friends – they ones FB thinks you like and enjoy the most.  Amazon has been doing this for years, and sending us all emails on what it thinks we should buy from them. Seriously, THIS IS WHAT YOU SHOULD BE WORRIED ABOUT. We are creating a world where each one of us will live in a bubble of information that divorces us from the complex world of critical and chaotic thought.  It is almost enough to make one walk away from it all and simply use the world of libraries. 
Yes, the information gathered on us, and how our world in relation to what constitutes privacy is changing …. has changed drastically.  Be worried about this.  Be conscious about this.  Be careful about what you put out there on the Interwebs. But a larger concern lies in how that information is being used and processed.  Do you really want Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Microsoft and the rest to become YOUR personal gatekeeper regarding information and news?  Telling you what information you should be reading, and holding back the rest? This is what we are surrendering to, and I think it should concern us all a great deal.
UPDATE 2/27/2012: 

For those of you interested in
deleting your  web browsing history on Google before their new privacy
policy takes place, John Thomas Didymus at Digital Journal offered this great advice:

1. Go to the google homepage and sign into your account.

2. Click the dropdown menu next to your name in the upper-right hand corner of your screen. 

3. Click accounts settings 

4. Find the “Services section” 

5. Under “Services” there is a sub-section that reads “View, enable,
disable web history.” Click the link next to it that reads: “Go to Web

6. Click on “Remove all Web History”

When you click on “Remove all Web History,” a message appears that says
” Web History is Paused.” What this means is that while Google will
continue gathering and storing information about your web history it
will make all data anonymous, that is, Google will not
associate your Web History information with your online accounts and
will therefore be unable to send you customized search results.

Links to examine: