Will Google Glass Change Society for the Worst?


The mobile phone is accused of killing face-to-face human interaction. Facebook is now inserting suggested pages and advertisements that are making users very angry. What can be expected from Google Glass? Will this invention become the stuff of science fiction movies that destroy societal interaction by replacing it with virtual reality lifestyles?

Years ago, I reported on an iPad-style invention with a glass front that when held up to the street scene, would give you information about architecture, places to eat and transportation information. Sounded great and essentially, that is the basis of the Google Glass. Of course, there is much, much more — perhaps too much?

Hello Information, Goodbye Real Life!

A cute video, but frightening in that this is exactly how people will interact with others. Sherrie Schneider (no relation to the author of this article), dating coach and co-author of “The Rules,” is in the “don’t wear it” camp, at least in the beginning.

Glass is not “a first date accessory,” she argues. “You need to treat Google Glass like any special issue on a first date. You don’t eat meat. You’re a Republican. You had breast cancer. Google Glass.”

That said, “don’t think that Google Glass will prevent a guy from asking you out again,” Schneider clarifies. “If he likes you, he will say ‘I want to see you Saturday night, but please don’t wear Google Glass.'”

No matter what, Glass “shouldn’t be a surprise,” Schneider emphasizes. If you’re gonna wear it, make sure your date knows ahead of time. Casey agrees. “I think you need to put it on your dating profile that you may be wearing Glass,” she said.

Whitney Casey, a relationship expert for Match.com, says the overarching rule when it comes to Glass and dates is simple: “Don’t wear it.”

Well, up until now there was only one thing that ruined dating — my personality!

Dating of course, is only a side to the problems Google Glass will cause in human interaction. Complaints about texting will be nothing compared to the attention stealing device, although it will make for a very quiet society.

When you imagine the dangers of texting while walking and driving, multiply it times 100 for Glass users. There will be people so involved with their augmented reality through Google Glass, they’ll be walking into oncoming traffic, falling into open sewers, driving off cliffs and unable to pay attention to the simplest task.The quiet of society will only be broken by the crashing of metal and bone and screams of the injured.

There are the memes on the internet of groups of people sitting at the dinner table, each one glued to their mobile device, not interactive with each other. So what will Google Glass do for human interaction? Will people need to even leave their homes? Will they want to do it at all?

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Privacy Issues

The very functions and capabilities that make Google Glass so incredible, are of grave concern to many, including the U.S. Congress. Joann Stern, of ABC News reports:

While some members of Congress might have been excited to try on Google’s Glass this week, others are concerned about their privacy implications.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and seven other members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus have sent a letter to Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page requesting answers to a series of privacy questions and concerns raised by the camera-equipped glasses.

“As members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, we are curious whether this new technology could infringe on the privacy of average Americans,” the letter reads. “Because Google Glass has not yet been released and we are uncertain of Google’s plans to incorporate privacy protections into the device, there are still a number of answered questions that we share.”

Eight questions are put forth in the letter, which can be read in full here. The first question addresses Google’s track record for ignoring consumer privacy and cites that in 2010 Google had collected user data over wireless networks without permission: “While we are thankful that Google acknowledged that there was an issue and took responsible measures to address it, we would like to know how Google plans to prevent Glass from unintentionally collecting data about the user / non-user without consent?”

Later questions focus on the concerns about the integrated camera and computing capabilities. “When using Google Glass, is it true that this product would be able to use Facial Recognition Technology to unveil personal information about whomever and even inanimate objects that the user is viewing?”

The group even asks about what privacy restrictions have been put in place for Glass app developers. While not referenced in the letter, a developer named Michael DiGiovanni created a Glass app called “Winky,” which allows a photo to be taken with just a blink of the eye.

Since the request for answers on privacy issues, the Congressional committee has expressed “disappointment” with the answers provided by Google.

The technology and services it offers users, it seems, have surpassed any ability to assure anyone of privacy issues. The Orwellian “1984 fear” of “Big Brother,” seems to not have come from the government, but from an electronic device put into play by users, the very victims themselves.

What are some of the dangers to society and individual privacy? According to the article, “3 New Ways Google Glass Invades Your Privacy,” appearing on PolicyMic, these are the biggest threats:

Glass accesses your subconscious:

The nature of a phone is that we have to pick it up and then swipe and click on things to make requests to the device. Sometimes, there are apps in the background, but we generally have to make a conscious decision to use our phones.

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Google Glass, on the other hand, tracks your eye movements and makes data requests based on where you’re looking. This means the device collects information without active permission. Eye movements are largely unconscious and have significant psychological meanings. For example, eye movements show who you’re attracted to and how you weigh your purchase options when shopping. Even creepier, it can even show if you’re lying or telling the truth.

You’ll become a snitch:

Did you pass by two people shaking hands on the street?  You might have revealed a drug deal to the police.

Police are increasingly resorting to digital information to catch criminals, sometimes finding hot spots for crimes before they even occur. The New York Police Department is beginning to use big data, which combines information from 3000 surveillance cameras, license plate readers, radiation detectors, 911 calls, arrest records, crime reports, and files of data on individuals’ personal characteristics from tattoos to limps. This data is put together to predict crimes and catch criminals. Similarly, ShotSpotter is used in 70 U.S. cities and gathers aggregate data to predict criminal events. Expect law enforcement to add some sort of information collected from Glass devices to the complicated algorithms designed to locate criminals.

What about the police getting access directly into what you see? This would be a new level of wiretapping, in which police would have get a warrant to as well as overcome some constitutional hurdles. Still, seeing that Google complied with 93% of the 6,321 government requests of private user information in the second half of 2011.

You lose everything if there’s a breach:

How many of you will turn off your Glass while punching in your PIN? How about when a person’s credit card is visible from the edge of your vision? How about when opening your bills, filing out tax information, or filing out a health form? Remember that computers can recognize numbers and letters blazingly fast – even a passing glance as you walk past a stranger’s wallet can mean that the device on your face learns her credit card number. All of this information can be compromised with a security breach, revealing both the information of the one using Glass and the people they surrounds themselves with.

Security breaches occur on phones frequently, often without the user ever being aware of it. The FTC recently brought charges against Android phone manufacturer HTC for having a serious security hole in 18 million smartphones. Hackers with access to your Glass could rob your apartment by knowing when you’re not home and where you keep your spare keys, gain access to your PIN and account numbers, and watch your fingers as you type in your passwords to other accounts on your computer. With this information, they could take every cent you have and e-mail your scandalous pictures to your boss.

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Even Google Glass engineers, who claim privacy issues were a concern from day one, admit there are still concerns over hacking.

TECH: Google Glass augmented reality computer

Are There Health Issues?

According to this article from the Mail Online:

Google has warned,  its Glass wearable computer could result in eye strain and headaches – and has banned children from wearing the gadget amid fears it could damage their eyesight. The search giant also advises people who have had laser eye surgery to check with their doctors. The warnings come amid growing concern over the safety of looking at the tiny screen all day.

“Glass isn’t for everyone,” the firm says on a web site for the gadget, which is currently only available to a handful of developers.

‘Like when wearing glasses, some people may feel eye strain or get a headache.

‘If you’ve had Lasik surgery, ask your doctor about risks of eye impact damage before using Glass. Don’t let children under 13 use Glass as it could harm developing vision.”

Google has also banned those under 13 from connecting Glass to their account. It also revealed customers who struggle with health issues will be given a refund.

“If Glass is not for you and you wish to return it, do so before the end of the applicable refund period,” it said.

It also claims that internal tests have given it “no cause for concern.”

‘It’s something we’ll continue to watch carefully,’ a spokesman said. “We have been working with ophthalmologists throughout our development process.”

Dr. Eli Peli, a professor of opthalmology at Harvard Medical School who has been “offering advice and guidance” to the Glass team, said, “all told, the results we see so far are encouraging.”

“As with regular eyeglasses or a new spectacle prescription, some people’s eyes take a bit longer to adjust to these systems.”

Dr. James Salz, a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, told NBC News the experience of wearing Glass was similar to reading a small print book.

‘Other than feeling a bit uncomfortable or getting a headache from this … there’s no evidence that this would do permanent damage to your eye,’ he claimed.

However, he believes it could lead to eye dryness.

Whatever happened to the old fear of electromagnetic forces causing brain cancer when people held their mobile phones up to their ears too long? And what of the pop up ads that will appear? will heart palpitations be part of the reIt’s probably not as much of a concern as most Glass users will be walking into oncoming traffic while they read their email and watch YouTube videos while on the streets.

Featured image ©MIT Technology Review


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13 thoughts on “Will Google Glass Change Society for the Worst?

  1. Just like any new technological device, there are a lot of questionable factors regarding health, privacy, and dependency. Realistically, smartphones own users. Today we depend on our phones to communicate with each other, navigate around the world, and find new ways to pass our time, all while being exposed to radiation.

    Hopefully, the good outweighs the bad with Google Glass as it has potential to positively impact a lot of industries such as healthcare, law enforcement, and competitive intelligence.