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Google Glass And Wearable Mobile Devices. Several Privacy Issues Emerge

You have probably heard about Google Glass. It is the first of several wearable mobile devices expected. These devices are integrated into consumer's clothing. In the case of Google Glass, the mobile computing device is integrated, today, into a simple pair of eyeglasses. (in the future, perhaps sunglasses and prescription eyeglasses.) This makes browsing the Web and other tasks truly hands-free, as Google Glass users can blink or wink to control certain product features.

One privacy concern is the right to take videos and photos. Another privacy concern is the right to be notified when you are being recorded. When most people converse with each other, they look directly in each other's eyes. Combined with its hands-free feature, this makes it very easy for Google Glass users to stealthy record others without their knowing it... and without alerting the other person, nor asking for permission. Unlike your smart phone which users must remove from their pocket or purse before taking video/photos, the Google Glass user can begin recording immediately, since the device is already in a position to record video/photos. Unlike traditional cameras, there is no familiar click of the shutter. This pits the rights of people to take photos/video versus the rights of people to control their own image.

People feel strongly on both sides. Some people refer to Google Glass users as "Glassholes." And, technology experts expect many apps will be developed that use the Google Glass device, and other wearable devices. (There's already one porn app for the Google Glass device.) Recognizing the passionate views, Google's position has been to prohibit the facial recognition feature with apps using its Google Glass device. Manufacturers of other devices may not take the same position.

As the New York Times describe in a recent blog post:

"... wearable computing fans, who are starting to sport devices that can record everything going on around them with a wink or subtle click, and the people who promise to confront violently anyone wearing one of these devices...I was startled by how much Glass invades people’s privacy, leaving them two choices: stare at a camera that is constantly staring back at them, or leave the room. This is not just a Google issue. Other gadgets have plenty of privacy-invading potential. Memoto, a tiny, automatic camera that looks like a pin you can wear on a shirt, can snap two photos a minute and later upload it to an online service."

Of course, Apple is developing wearable devices, too. As a recent Forbes Magazie article stated:

"The thing that makes Google Glass one notch weirder and the digital noose one notch tighter for all of us is the loss of the ability to opt in. If you’re in the field of fire, you’re in. There have already been a number of reports of parties where people were asked to remove their Google Glass piece or leave the premises. The Seattle bar 5 Point has banned Google Glass and warned on its Web page, '... ass-kickings will be encouraged for violators.' ”

Hopefully, people and companies will sort through and come to reasonable positions on etiquette. Consider this: is it appropriate to use wearable devices in bathrooms or restrooms? What about doctor's offices? What about at doctor's waiting rooms? Your yoga or pilates class? Or your favorite clothing-optional beach?

Employers will need to adjust, too, especially workplaces where employees access records with confidential or proprietary information. Otherwise, data breaches via wearable devices will result. Places that come to my mind include banks, financial institutions, and cedit-reporting companies where employees view and process the sensitive information of other consumers. (Consider people standing behind you in line at an ATM machine, who try to shoulder-surf with wearable devices.) Then, there are locations such as factories and company offices with proprietary company information. Military and contractor ocations with sensitive information are obvious concerns. Many court buildings already ban visitors from using smart phones and digital recording devices.

Today, respectful people ask their friends, family, classmates, and/or coworkers if it's okay to take and post a photo on a social networking site before doing so. Some people are savvy about this; and give permission for the photo to be uploaded, and ask that the person not "tag" the photo posted on Facebook. And, companies will need to adjust their mobile device policies for what employees (and contractors) can or cannot bring into the workplace.

Between consumers -- friends, family, and classmates -- etiquette and rules will need to be quickly established and clarified. Otherwise, distrust and conflict will result quickly.

What's your opinion about Google Glass and other wearable mobile devices?


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