Books written by Ray Sullivan

Monday, 30 June 2014

Google's Glass Half Full

Like many others in the UK I received an email from Google last week inviting me to buy a pair of Google Glass.  I registered an interest last year when the programme was launched, not necessarily to spend £1000 but to get more information.  Since that time I've heard nothing from Google (but of course they've provided plenty of information on their website), however there's been plenty reported in the press in that time.

It seems that Glass has had a bit of a rough ride in some states in the US, less so in others.  There was the case where a Glass wearer was approached by the FBI after wearing a pair to the cinema.  That showed a limitation in the device, especially as film piracy is a federal offence in the US.  Today it was announced that wearing Glass in UK cinemas was not going to be permitted. Then there has been a raft of pre-emptive decisions by citizens running businesses who have decided themselves they don't want Glass wearers in their establishments.  I guess they don't want to lose a large share of their customer base due to fears of privacy infringement caused by a minority.  I expect some UK establishments would take a similar view.  We're already believed to be the country with the most CCTV per capita without citizens adding to the list.

Over here in the UK the reaction to Glass has been muted anyway.  Fair enough we're in the middle of a series of prosecutions of celebrities who have allegedly abused their celebrity status to take advantage of fans and friends of family.  Some previously regarded 'national treasures' are now either in gaol or about to go there.  So putting yourself in a position that people could think you're a closet pervert is good enough reason to not spend that grand, because there's enough opportunity to film legitimatelyon your mobile phone in plain sight without resorting to covert methods.

Even if you are confident enough to try and wear these devices in public, there are still issues.  A British newspaper recently carried out tests that showed Glass wearers could capture PIN data being input into an ATM.  You could probably do that without Glass, but they allow you to record the activity and replay until you've worked out the correct combination.  As I can barely remember my own PIN, recording someone else's is probably the only way I'd manage to steal it, if that was my aim. Other concerns have been aired, such as capturing information on computer screens.  Google have played down these risks by suggesting that the camera isn't actually that good (despite their website suggesting it was actually quite reasonable) and saying that as the screen lights up when in use it should be obvious when someone is using Glass.  Maybe, but we're not all that observant, so I'm unconvinced.

One of the features suggested by Google is the ability to use Glass as a sat nav device on the road.  The British driving authorities have roundly suggested that drivers are not to use devices like Glass while driving, as it could present a distraction.  I'm sure that will be ignored, as the use of hand held mobile phones while driving appears to have been ignored, however the UK has just quadrupled the potential fines for such offences, up to an eye watering £10,000, so perhaps Glass might make a headline for itself by being the first to get the top fine?  Several US states are understood to have taken a similar stance regarding banning Glass use while driving, for much the same reasons.

So, we won't want to wear Glass in public for fear of being branded a pervert or a data thief, we certainly can't wear them in cinemas and forget about wearing them when you are driving.  You can use them in the  privacy of your own home, but I'm struggling to see the advantage.  I guess my £1000 is not going anywhere near Google for some time, at least until I can see a legitimate reason for using them.

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