Google Glass, Privacy and Recording Law

No Surveillance Devices

No Surveillance Devices

By Kevin Leland

Google glass is now in the hands of a selected few applicants. They come packaged in a really neat, clear acrylic box with a number on it. Hold on to those, and keep your glass in good condition -imagine this: Someday, they will be valuable antiques. Imagine what kind of ubiquitous computing devices we’ll have by the time these first issue originals become antiques? By that time, surrogate robots -as per the movie starring Bruce Willis; Surrogates– will probably be on the scene.

Google’s slogan, ‘Don’t be evil’ defines an attitude that the company claims to put before their ambition to make money. They avoid conflicts of interest:

Google users trust our systems to help them with important decisions: medical, financial and many others. Our search results are the best we know how to produce. They are unbiased and objective, and we do not accept payment for them or for inclusion or more frequent updating. We also display advertising, which we work hard to make relevant, and we label it clearly. This is similar to a well-run newspaper, where the advertisements are clear and the articles are not influenced by the advertisers’ payments. We believe it is important for everyone to have access to the best information and research, not only to the information people pay for you to see.

Does the release of this ground-breaking gadget cause a conflict of interest with the general public and it’s concern for privacy? With the unveiling of Google Glass comes accusations from the paranoid masses that Google has now become an evil Peeping Tom, or at least a major facilitator of potentially millions of these types of perverts, who are going to look in our windows and up our skirts -and worst of all, take pictures and video of what they see and post it online with tags identifying us by name, with associated face recognition technology and all the information in the form of electronic data collected about us by Google bots from our online activities, that is stuffed into our secret, digital dossiers that everyone from strangers to our gfs and bfs to the FBI and NSA can access.

‘Excellent.’ That’s what I say, without an inkling of sarcasm. Why? Because I understand my function in life, and to a mature and somewhat well-informed degree, my rights and privileges associated with that function. I’m afforded, like every other free person, a right to: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I enjoy all the other freedoms I choose to partake of as spelled out in the Bill of Rights. The U.S. Constitution affords us no right to privacy, accept the fourth amendment that prevents government and law enforcement agencies from illegal search and seizure. Laws in general against breaking and entering and burglary prevent civilians from this same behavior. Guess what? We even have laws against looking up skirts, and secretly peeking in peoples windows.

So now, as I see it, Google’s ‘Don’t be evil’ policy is extending out past corporate headquarters to it’s consumers and the public at large. ‘Oh no!’ cries the public. ‘“Don’t be evil” sounds like a religious doctrine ( cuz it is ) and separation of church and state (not that Google is the ‘state’…well..) says that religious beliefs can’t be imposed on us. We can be evil if we damn well please!’ No. You can’t. Well, you can, but you may not get away with it -especially if your evil behavior is recorded by others, or even yourself. If you take pictures of what you see while peeking through someone’s windows, or up someones skirt, and post it online -watch how fast all those little digital footprints lead law enforcement, bearing a search warrant, right back to you, where they seize and search your Google Glass as well as your un-ubiquitous computer’s hard drive, find kiddie porn and other evidence to arrest you, convict you,  jail you, label you a sex offender and upload pictures of you (tables turned) bearing that label, to an online database, alerting everyone that you have a propensity to -be evil.

Don’t be evil. Don’t be lewd. Don’t be stupid. Don’t be rude. Don’t be selfish. Don’t be sneaky. Don’t be a Tom who sneaks a peeky. Don’t be arrogant. Don’t be mean. A Google Glass might capture the scene of you being lewd…And then you’re screwed. If you don’t do anything in the public square that you don’t want attributed to your name and face, then you won’t have to worry about your privacy, except at home, behind closed curtains, where if you catch a person invading it, on video, you can hold them accountable. I like the new Coke commercial that shows us a bunch of people, caught on camera, doing humanly cute, kind and even heroic things. I hope Google Glass users capture and post a bunch of that kind of stuff, in addition to the kind of stuff that catches and holds people accountable when they decide, instead, to be evil.

However, there are some rules, state laws actually, that you need to be aware of before you record and post that video of some stranger chasing down another stranger to return a ten dollar bill they unknowingly dropped. These laws vary from state to state. I prefer, and strongly believe, that there should be consistency in these laws across the United States, especially with the advance of recording technology that has brought us to the point of Google Glass, and soon will bring us even further. I believe that the way to go, across our land, is the way of the ‘one party’ state.

My state, Vermont, and my former state, Rhode Island, are both one party states. A ‘one party state’ says that it is legal to record a conversation (or other interpersonal interaction) of which you are a party to, without the permission or knowledge of the other party or parties. I’ll leave you to, and encourage you to conduct your own investigation of the alternative laws adopted by states that are not ‘one party’ states. I also encourage you to participate in the democratic process -you don’t have to be a lawyer. I’m not. So, take this legal advice accordingly- and make a request of your lawmakers to make your state a ‘one party’ state if it isn’t already.

There are also ‘Nanny Cam’ type laws, surveillance and wiretapping and eavesdropping laws as well as laws regarding the recording of things that are the intellectual property of others, and violate copyrights. These are all things that as the general public -who wants to enjoy the world around us, while we record it for our own scrapbook of memories, or to share the moment with friends and family -or strangers, or for posterity- need to educate ourselves about, as we work to come up with a more universal and better defined ‘etiquette’ regarding the records of ourselves and each other we make and post online.



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