EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


May 20, 2013

Column: Google Glass and the end of privacy

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.

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