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The Creepy Google-Glass-arazzi? -- Part 31 Google’s Disrespect for Privacy Research Series

The big problem with Google Glass is that it disrespects others’ privacy in the real world.

In creating an innovative form-factor for Google users to use most all of Google’s services in the real-world on-the-go and hands-free, Google Glass would fundamentally change how Google users socially interact and affect others in society.

In the virtual world, Google is a champion of users having the freedom to do most whatever they want online. In the real physical world, people’s freedoms begin to end when they begin to seriously infringe upon the freedoms of others – like the freedom of reasonable privacy.  

The greatest Google privacy outcries have been when Google products disregarded and disrespected non-Google users’ or others’ privacy. Gmail users may have assented to Google scanning their emails to target personal ads to get free email, but the billion or so non-Gmail users that happen to trade emails with Gmail never agreed to Google’s privacy-invading deal.

Google Earth and Street View photographs of most everyone’s home from most every angle that a potential burglar would need, may have served Google users’ interests for maximum available information, but it disrespected most homeowners’ natural security interests that don’t want that information one-click-away for use by potential bad actors.

Google’s clandestine recording of private data from most all Americans’ homes prompted 38 states to sanction Google and try to force Google to better respect others’ privacy. In all these instances, Google did not respect the interests of others in their actions.

I predict Google Glass will prompt lots more privacy outcries and enforcement action because it will naturally disrespect others’ reasonable right to privacy in the real world. The potentially big mistake Google is making with Google Glass is that they appear to imagine that they can drag-and-drop the Internet’s Wild West morays, into the more civilized, physical real world with no objection or legal consequence. Law enforcement on the Internet and in the physical world, are literally worlds apart.

Google Glass’s uber-efficient, surreptitious capability to video and record everyday citizens conversations within microphone-range for immediate storage and analysis in Google’s data centers, without those people’s knowledge or consent, is literally an in-your-face challenge to both most people’s reasonable expectation of privacy and many state laws against recording others without their consent.

Ironically, Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt self-branded Google as creepy-like when he famously said, Google’s policy is to “get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.” I predict many will think Google Glass crosses the creepy line when they see how powerful and convenient a spying tool it can be if worn by a creep. Will Google have any safeguards against its obvious illegal uses?  

Apparently Google knows they face a creepy marketing problem with Google Glass because they are doing everything they can to have those using Google Glass to be beautiful models or celebrities, and to be using it in only cool ways.

What the models and celebrities have yet to figure out is that Google Glass would empower the privacy-invading paparazzi to get dramatically closer to them and their families without detection. And what average people will quickly come to appreciate is how offensive and scary it is for others to disrespect their privacy or the security of their children.

Google Glass’ big privacy problem is that Glass naturally empowers and encourages people to be obliviously self-centered and disrespectful of everyone around them.

Watch Google try and say they cannot be held responsible for the actions of its users who “own” the Glasses. The big problem with that defense is how Google Glass operates; it is a cloud service, so all processing and responding to commands occurs on Google’s proprietary computers, and all images and recordings are stored and analyzed there for use by Google’s data miners and targeted advertisers. Without Google’s data centers the Glasses simply can’t work as offered. Google faces massive potential liabilities because of the de facto partnership way they have set-up and operate Google Glass.

The real societal shock of Google’s effective Spy-Glass service is what happens if millions of Google’s billion-plus users, quickly choose to buy and use Google Glass in their everyday life as Google is marketing? The effect could be to: grow the paparazzi from hundreds to potentially tens of millions of Glass-arazzi; create a swarm of human spy drones to advance Google’s cutting-edge, artificial intelligence research efforts; and create a veritable world army of “Google Storm-snoopers” to flash-mob-record private and public events like never before.     

In one fell snoop, Google effectively could take the surveillance economy/society up a few notches exceptionally quickly. And remember all these clandestine recordings of private conversations and video tapes of up-close behavior, largely would be accessible by law enforcement and the Government with and without a subpoena.

The danger for people using Google’s personal Spy-Glass in another country than America, could be particularly problematic in that they could easily be accused of being a spy, if they were not hyper-aware of their surroundings at all times.      

In sum, Google Glass will most likely be the single biggest privacy problem Google has faced to date. That is because it is a creepy-combo of all of Google’s past privacy problems in one in-your-face, fully-integrated, beautiful, Google product/service.

If state AGs were committed to protecting citizens’ reasonable expectations of privacy in the Google Street view WiSpy scandal, when private WiFi data signals were vacuumed up once per household for just a few seconds, think about how they will look at mass-collected minutes or hours of citizens’ private conversations or intimate activities without their knowledge or consent -- that could be just-an-oral-command-away from being uploaded to Google’s Youtube for Google’s 800 million viewers potential amusement and use. Will Google Glass have Google Goggles built-in by default?   

In the end, when industries in the past condoned and encouraged their users to disrespect the rights of others, others fought back. Smoking near people without their permission was forced on people until enough people showed that a smokers’ unfettered freedom was too intrusive and potentially harmful to others. In another case, drinking-and-driving was long celebrated as funny, cool, and somehow ok, until those people’s supposed freedom to do whatever, dangerously disrespected the safety of others.  

Hopefully, Google will respect the State AGs recent enforcement action and not again roll out a privacy-invasive service nationally that disrespects users’ reasonable expectation of privacy or breaks state laws against the recording of others without their knowledge and consent. Sadly, Google’s dismal privacy record over the last decade suggests no one should get their hopes up.

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Google’s Disrespect for Privacy

Part 1: Why Google is the Biggest Threat to Americans' Privacy; The Detailed Case from my House Testimony

Part 2: Google Book Settlement "absolutely silent on user privacy"

Part 3: Yet more evidence of Google's hostility to privacy

Part 4: Google's Schmidt: "Because we say so" on why you can trust Google's Privacy Dashboard

Part 5: Fact Checking Google's New Privacy Principles

Part 6: Google's Privacy "Buzz" Saw

Part 7: Exposing Google's Systemic Privacy Vulnerabilities

Part 8: What Private Information Google Collects -- A One-Page Fact Sheet

Part 9: What else does Google secretly track? Top 10 questions for privacy investigators to ask

Part 10: Google's "Total Information Awareness" Power -- A one-page graphic of all the information Google has

Part 11: Americans want online privacy -- per new Zogby poll

Part 12: Why Privacy Is an Antitrust Issue & Why Google is its Poster Child

Part 13: Google's Deep Tracking Inspection -- a privacy nightmare

Part 14: Why is the FTC AWOL on Google Privacy?

Part 15: Why Google's Privacy Controls are a Joke -- Lessons for FTC/FCC

Part 16: Google's No Privacy by Design Business Model

Part 17: FTC-Google Privacy Settlement Takeaways

Part 18: Google vs Apple: How Business Models Drive Disrespect vs Respect for Privacy

Part 19: Big Brother Inc. -- My Huffington Post Op-ed on Google & Privacy

Part 20: "G-Male:" a very funny new Google privacy satire

Part 21: Where's the Market for Online Privacy?

Part 22: Google's Latest Privacy Scandal Spin – A Satire

Part 23: Google's Top 35 Privacy Scandals

Part 24: Google's Privacy Excuse Algorithm Team - a Satire

Part 25: Google's Privacy Rap Sheet

Part 26: Why FTC's $22.5m Google Privacy-Fine is Faux Accountability

Part 27: Google's Top Ten Anti-Privacy Quotes

Part 28: The Unique Google Privacy Problem -- My Presentation to Korean Privacy Council in Seoul

Part 29: Google's Privacy Words vs Google's Anti-Privacy Deeds

Part 30: Google’s Privacy Rap Sheet Updated: Fact-Checking Google’s Claim it Works Hard to Get Privacy Right