OMG Seriously, Google’s Glasses Won’t Destroy the World

Ever since Google announced in February they were going to choose a select number of people to test their Google glasses, +ProjectGlass, there’s been many blog posts and news stories about how Google Glasses will destroy our privacy, be used to scam women on dates, and spy on would be celebrities in cool but dive bars.

For example, the 5 Point Café in Seattle, Washington, one of my favorite hangouts, has declared their space a “No Google Glass Zone.” That’s right, you must leave your pair of Google Glasses at the door if you wish to enter this establishment. Why?  Well your blind date might just try to scam you using his Google Glasses: How Guys Will Use Google Glasses.

Then there’s the many news stories about how Google Glasses will destroy our privacy – I will point out a few of the more popular ones this afternoon:

Putting Google Glasse in Perspective

I have two words for you – technological determinism. Technological determinism puts forth the following premise: “a reductionist theory that presumes that a society’s technology drives the development of its social structure and cultural values.”

Every since Plato ranted against the new technology of his time, writing, proclaiming loud and fiercely in the Phaedrus that it would destroy our ability to remember anything, technological determinism has had many a spokesperson.

But this barrage of negative press against Google Glasses, and pretty much any form of technology, misses the bigger point – the problem is us, not the technology. Where was all this negative press when cell phones came out with tiny little cameras? Indeed, the problem isn’t the technology it’s how we decide to use it – it’s also about our personal and social ethics.

What we should be worried about is the fact that people are willing to film us without our permission and put that film on YouTube, or other public video spaces.  Remember this lovely video of the girl texting and then falling into a fountain at the mall? Google glasses were not needed by the security people who edited and then uploaded this video – embarrassing the poor woman even further.

Or how about the drunk man in the convenience store? Here’s an oldie but a goodie – let’s make this man’s life a total living hell by posting our surveillance video on YouTube. Screw the man, he got drunk at 10AM, he deserved to be to have his actions broadcast without his permission, as one commenter suggested, rob2049:

The man put himself in that disposition, it may be sad, but there are much worse episodes in this world. Some comedy, is good for all of us, no matter what your view may be, it happened, and whats done is done, so enjoy!”

Next, Google Glasses were not needed to make this mass list of “upskirt” videos easily found on YouTube. Nope, all you need are some shoe cameras for this task.  These can be purchased quickly on Amazon or many other places on the internet.

5 Point Cafe, as Dmitry Maksimov recently commented on their website, will you also be banning cell phones? ipads. Tablets? Shoe Phone Cameras?

What we need to be concerned about is what we do with the technology we have, from writing to Google Glasses and beyond. This is an old argument – and goodness knows it’s one we’ve heard before. But the bottom line comes down to this: Google glasses will not destroy our privacy. We are destroying our privacy. We should ask permission before we take somebody’s picture – we should ask permission before we use someone’s image in order to advertise a product (this one’s for you Facebook).

We should also consider the fact that our society is becoming empathically hungry. Indeed, the above videos I pointed to demonstrate a lack of empathy – regarding both the woman who fell into the fountain, and the drunk man at the convenient store. The people who uploaded those videos did not consider how that woman and man might feel, or how that video might impact their lives.  No time was taken to consider the following: what if that was me? Would I want that video uploaded to YouTube for thousands of people to watch, laugh at, and remember for the rest of my life? No.

In the end we will determine what we decide to be public versus what we decide to be private content. Part of that determination is going to be how we decide to use the technology in our lives. Google glasses will not destroy privacy – we will destroy our own privacy. I hope to get a pair of Google Glasses, but if I start videotaping people, I will do what I do now: I will ask permission, especially if I intend to publish it anywhere!

But make no mistake about it, this is not new. From the moment humans started painting public spaces – the 1884 “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat, to the moment the camera became available, movie recordings, video recordings, instant polaroids, video cameras on our phones, and so on and so forth. Google glasses is not new, it’s just a new step in the ongoing evolution of technology.



Voyeurism is Allowed Public Spaces?

In Washington state, there has been several news articles about men who have elaborate camera set ups using shoes and iPhones, to look up women’s dresses. The most recently publicized case involves Jenifer DeMarre who was at the Seattle Home Show in Feb of 2012 with her husband when a man tried to film up her skirt. DeMarre’s husband caught the man and the voyeur was quickly arrested. However, it is taken almost a month for DeMarre to get an anti-harassment order against this man.  Why? 

The story I have been following was written by Denise Whitaker for Komo news in Seattle. Now, I follow Komo on Facebook and I was a bit horrified to read on comment thread one man who wrote:

shes blowing this up so much omg

Unfortunately, the questionable comment above is not a rare opinion regarding these types of events, and other events like. What’s the big deal? After all, she was wearing a skirt, right? Easy access. She’s basically asking for it.

The idea privacy is changing drastically in our society. Social networks, Facebook, GPS and digital surveillance have all come together to redefine what is often called the public sphere. Some of the problems regarding this redefinition the murky, gray waters of what can be considered public access as compared to what is considered private acts. And this includes issues of voyeurism, and fashion.

Shoe Cameras

In a way, DeMarre was lucky that the incident occurred in a private Facility rather than a public space. Indeed, as I wrote on Facebook when replying to this news story, if this act of voyeurism had occurred in a public space, DeMarre might not have gotten any legal help whatsoever, because wearing a skirt in public doesn’t give you a reasonable
expectation to privacy.

How do I know this?   First, it is clearly written in the Washington state voyeurism law; the laws pasted towards the end of this post.  But more importantly, I saw this happen myself during Seattle SLUT walk 2011.

For those who do not know, SLUT Walk is an activist movement comprised of people who have been sexually assaulted and raped, and then blamed for that assault because of what he or she was wearing – this is slut-shaming and victim blaming.   I was taking part in the protest, when a man was seen taking photographs of women’s underwear, and up women’s skirts.  Keep in mind, this was a group of women, and men, most of who had been raped and/or sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Regardless, this man was repeatedly reported to the police who happened to be present at the protest. What did the police do? Nothing. They asked him to stop doing it, but they did not run him off, they did not arrest him, they only offered a firm word and then let him loose, to start filming all over again.

Many of the women were horrified and, rightfully so, angry. The question was this: why on earth did the police not arrest him from voyeurism? Well, because none of us at that protest had reasonable expectation of privacy. We were in a public location, Westlake Square, and having a public protest. As a result, our public space did not allow us to have private expectations.

The irony is this: we now have laws that allow a form of “slut-shaming” for women evening wearing the most tasteful of dress or skirt. It doesn’t matter if the woman is wearing fishnet stockings and a miniskirt,  or if she is wearing a full-length skirt that covers all the way down to the ankles–if she is out in public, any guy with the camera on his foot can likely get away with filming her, and there will be little that she can do about.  Even though a skirt that covers a person’s intimate areas, and legs, suggests a desire for privacy, just being in a public place can counteract that gesture.

 I write about this today only to make people aware of the conflict in law, social mores, and everyday life. One of the women who wrote on the Facebook post by Komo said: this is one of the reasons I never wear a skirt in public. It is terribly sad that we live in a world that suggests that people deserve to be taken advantage of just because of the close they wear.  Just fodder to think about.

Washington State:RCW 9A.44.115 Voyeurism.

(1) As used in this section:

     (a) “Intimate areas”
means any portion of a person’s body or undergarments that is covered by
clothing and intended to be protected from public view;

“Photographs” or “films” means the making of a photograph, motion
picture film, videotape, digital image, or any other recording or
transmission of the image of a person;

     (c) “Place where he or she would have a reasonable expectation of privacy” means:

(i) A place where a reasonable person would believe that he or she
could disrobe in privacy, without being concerned that his or her
undressing was being photographed or filmed by another; or

     (ii) A place where one may reasonably expect to be safe from casual or hostile intrusion or surveillance;

(d) “Surveillance” means secret observation of the activities of
another person for the purpose of spying upon and invading the privacy
of the person;

     (e) “Views” means the intentional looking
upon of another person for more than a brief period of time, in other
than a casual or cursory manner, with the unaided eye or with a device
designed or intended to improve visual acuity.

     (2) A person
commits the crime of voyeurism if, for the purpose of arousing or
gratifying the sexual desire of any person, he or she knowingly views,
photographs, or films:

     (a) Another person without that
person’s knowledge and consent while the person being viewed,
photographed, or filmed is in a place where he or she would have a
reasonable expectation of privacy; or

     (b) The intimate areas
of another person without that person’s knowledge and consent and under
circumstances where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy,
whether in a public or private place.
 Read the full law here.

What do you think about the changing reality of pubic vs private spaces?  What do you think about slut blaming?

The secret smile

We have arrived in Seattle, and spent the holidays with friends and family, which was lovely.  A good portion of our time has been simply getting our living situation in order.  We are still staying in the RV, but have decided to move to an apartment.  The commute for me to and from my job is hell (2+ hours each way for a 1 hour a day gig).  This commute really does a number on my time and when and where I can complete my other online work.  As such, since there are no good RV park options around here, George and I have decided to become urban dwellers and have applied for an apartment downtown.  We are still waiting to hear from the complex as to whether we were approved or not – I am hoping we have been.  I am hoping to hear very soon.

As much as I hate the commute to and from work, there are a few perks!  For one, I get to observe people.  On the last leg of my trip home (I take three buses to get to work, and three to get home), there is a young lady (high school aged) who takes the same bus as I do – taking us into a rural area on the outskirts of Renton, WA.  Our bus only comes once an hour, so we sit together, in a covered area, waiting for the bus. 

She smiles.

A lot.

The smile that adorns her face is not one of those “I am pure joy,” smiles, but the “I’ve got a secret” variety.  Not the wide open Cheshire cat secret, but a closed mouth sporting a thin smile that extends slightly more on the right side of her face than the left.  Here eyes tend to stare wherever you are not, and the smile disappears when someone speaks to her:

“I see you are studying Geometry; do you enjoy the subject?” I say, as the smile girl loses her smile and grunts to indicate a dislike.  Eyes averted and refocus on her shoes.

“I hated Geometry,” states a rather heavyset man sitting between us.  “It’s all those theorems and … and postulates …. “

“Proofs?” I offer.

“Proofs, ya.  I much preferred Trigonometry.  I’m gonna get some coffee.”

As the man left, the secret smile girl and I return to our silences.  In the silence her smile returns and I wish I knew what her secret was.  Could it be a new love?  Is she psychic, and she knows the doom or good luck coming all of our way?  Is she working on a fantasy of how her life will be like?  A prank she is thinking of committing on her Geometry teacher?

I thought it was a secret she held, but now I am not sure because everyday she wears the same expression.  Is it a hardwired expression in her, like my hardwired crease between my brows that make people think I am upset, angry, or pompous?  Is it just a trick of muscles, tendons, and skin that offers the illusion of a secret joy?

Genetic or inspired, I cannot stop looking at her expression when sitting at the bus stop.  I peek at her behind my book, not turning any pages, simply wondering if maybe she sees the world in the ironic light we should all see the world. 

I want her smile.

We’re Off again!

Just as the news weather forecast tell us that snow is coming, we are preparing to leave Albuquerque for Seattle.  We are avoiding the direct, I-90 route, because the passes going that way will be much more difficult than the passes on 1-5.  Still, we will have 5 mountain passes to deal with:

1. Tejon Pass, CA (elevation 4,183 ft/1,275 m) between Los Angeles area and the San Joaquin Valley. – click link for google map.

2. Siskiyou Summit, OR (elevation 4,037 ft/1,230 m)
between Northern California and Oregon. *NOTE: Mountain
driving begins several hundred miles prior to the summit BOTH
DIRECTIONS. – click link for cool YouTube Video of the drive (during summer)

3. Sexton Mountain Pass, OR (elevation 1,970 ft/600 m) Just north of Grants Pass en route to Smith Hill Summit (1,727ft). – click for approximate location

4. Stage Road Pass, OR (elevation 1,830 ft/558 m) Just north of Smith Hill Summit). – Click for location.

5. Canyon Creek Pass, OR (elevation 2,020 ft/616 m) Just north of Stage Road Pass. (From Winter/Mountain Driving Tips )

But before we approach these challenges we will be going to Tucson, the place of my birth, to deposit a bit of my dad – who loved AZ greatly.  We plan to leave him by the place where him and my mom met, and had many happy days.  I will also show George the house I grew up in because, well, why the hell not!

Our first stop, however, will be Lordsburg, NM.  Founded in 1880, in 2000 this city spouted a population of 3,379.  It is also known as the birthplace of New Mexico’s state song: O Fair New Mexico.

But this city also has a controversial and sad history from WWII, since the city “held as many as 1,500 Japanese Americans in a Japanese American internment camp operated by the U.S. Army during World War II” (Wikipedia, Lordsburg, New Mexico).

If you would like to follow our trip back to Seattle come back to this blog, and trace the trip on this Google Map:  Trip to Seattle.

Work Cited:
Lordsburg, New Mexico. (2010, September 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:38, November 30, 2010, from,_New_Mexico&oldid=385298379