Dan K. Thomasson
---- — Dan K. Thomasson
Picture yourself sitting in a restaurant having a private conversation with a business client or an intimate chat with a romantic partner, paying no attention to the person at the next table wearing spectacles and who seems, at times, to be staring at you.
A few hours or days later, you realize he must have been doing more than staring when details of your conversation and a photo of you engaged in it have been transmitted for who knows how many to see.
You’d be correct if you instantly suspected that the device attached to the earpiece of the spectator’s lens-less glasses can record and transmit information as capably as your iPad or iPhone.
Called Google Glass, the miniature intruder may be the latest and most insidious nail in the privacy coffin.
Even though the device is just being tested, this newest advance already has been banned in some locations, including parts of Las Vegas and in some bars, and has drawn concern about its use while driving. In West Virginia, where driver texting is prohibited unless hands-free, legislators are expected to move to try and include Google Glass in the ban, according to recent press reports.
The invention takes eavesdropping to a whole new level. How long before our every utterance or move is so restricted by fear of exposure that we become almost paralyzed? According to The New York Times, that probably won’t be too far off. It reported that test versions have been released to 2,000 developers and that Google has handpicked 8,000 “explorers” to receive a pair soon. From there it is but a short step into mass distribution of a product that strains our freedom.
But progress can’t be stopped and technology marches on, adding to our convenience, but often at a high cost. Already we are on the verge of being under constant surveillance once we step outside our front doors with cameras watching us from nearly every street corner -- not counting those in the hands of every Tom, Dick and Mary. That can be a good thing as it was in the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon and in trying to prevent crime. Most of us are willing to put up with the official variety placed there for our own safety.
But the potential for abuse always is present and Big Brother but a step away. However, Google Glass is over the top with a possibility for intrusion that makes those ubiquitous telephone cameras and recorders seem benign.
The Times quoted a Los Angeles lawyer as saying, “We are all now going to be both the paparazzi and the paparazzi’s target.” That seems spot on to me, and it doesn’t make it less intrusive because one has to touch the device or speak to activate it and look directly at his or her target. Refiners of this tech wonder already have begun to find ways to activate it that are less obvious ... like just winking.
Those defending this latest wizardry contend that no one should have anything to hide. Are they nuts? No. They’re just mad scientists.
How about when you reprimand your kid for being disruptive or refusing to mind while in public? Should that be recorded and given to the authorities as evidence that you are abusive? Do you really want all your personal business and problems, no matter how minor, recorded for posterity? If you do, you belong in Silicon Valley with the rest of the “geniuses.”
A wise man once told me that too much progress can be a bad thing. He explained that just because it is possible to do something doesn’t mean you should do it, especially if it doesn’t necessarily enhance your life or carries the potential of being disruptive or destructive to someone else.
What is the value of privacy? If we haven’t learned that by now, we are lost and the Merlins of our Brave New World will leave us shredded and bleeding on the altar of technology. Am I hysterical? When it comes to this subject, you bet I am. Everyone should be. Keep your nose and your Google Glass out of our business.
Email Dan K. Thomasson, former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service, at firstname.lastname@example.org.