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.



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 CafĂ© 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.