Image via Flickr / taedc
Soon, the world will be home to at least 10,000 Google Glass headsets. In addition to the 2,000 already handed to developers, another 8,000 will go to so-called "Explorers" who won the privilege of paying $1,500 to test the device. For the future of technology, this marks an exciting new era, one where cyborg-like nerds rules the Earth with headmounted cameras and the Internet beamed into their brains. For the fate of privacy, this is a much different, more uncertain time, and at least a few people think there's bedlam ahead. Don't be scared, though, despite all the people trying to scare you.
The New York Times is the latest Google Glass fearmonger. In a front page story on Tuesday, the Grey Lady informed readers that, despite being in the early stages of release, Glass is stirring up all kinds of legal trouble, having already sparked bans in Las Vegas casinos and at least one Seattle bar. The rest of the paper's evidence includes a failed bill in West Virginia's state legislature, and a bunch of privacy lawyers with cheeky things to say. "This is just the beginning,” said Timothy Toohey, a privacy lawyer. “Google Glass is going to cause quite a brawl."
That would be crazy, if it were true. Cell phones and cameras are already banned in Las Vegas casinos, so the casinos aren't really introducing a Google Glass ban as much as they are including Glass in the existing bans for obvious reasons. The Seattle bar's admitted to banning Glass in their establishment as a (very successful) publicity ban. And again, the West Virginia law failed.
So what's all the commotion about? Haven't we always gotten a little shaken up when disruptive new technology hits the market and has that ever lead to widespread bans? The Atlantic Wire's Rebecca Greenfield, who found The Times's Glass treatment to be a little sensational, makes a great point about how Glass users are already regulating themselves, reinforcing the point that there aren't actually any substantive bans. "
While other, logical places — like strip clubs, or casinos — have banned Google Glass, people don't necessarily need laws or formal prohibitions to tell them how to properly regulate their usage of the world's foremost walking computer," says Greenfield. "Already a whole bunch of people have written about their inclination to have specific etiquette while using Google Glass."
This reminds me of when camera phones came out, and some people said, "Whoa those camera phones are unconstitutional." But really people just treated them like regular (albeit initially very shitty) cameras. From there, society sort of adapted to the new technologies. Creep shots can be lame, but it's not like banning all cameras is the right way to address the issue.
Google Glass isn't a scary thing. It's unnerving in a lot of ways, but when you step back and think about it, it really is just the beginning of a new era. Computers won't just live on our desks or in our pockets any more. We'll have them on our wrists and on our heads. Social norms will adapt, and Congress probably isn't going to rush into any new laws. And we'll probably get some awesome new YouTube videos along the way.