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Google’s SpyGlass – Google’s Big Rest-of-World Trust Problem -- Part 35 of Google Disrespect for Privacy Series

Google can expect a big rest-of-world trust problem when it rolls out Google Glass overseas, because of: foreign fallout from Edward Snowden’s illegal disclosures of NSA surveillance activities; Google’s reputation for aggressive and pervasive spying on people’s privacy; and Google’s cavalier legal stance that people have “no legitimate expectation of privacy.”

Simply, the Snowden Effect may have changed market receptivity for Google’s Glass rollout overseas. To many non-Americans and foreign governments, Google’s privacy problems may have transformed into Google Glass’ spying problems.

Overseas many naturally will view Google’s SpyGlass with great suspicion because it may be the most hyper-efficient and effective spying tool ever. It is designed to gain easy access to places cameras and recorders are normally not allowed to be and to effortlessly video and audio record a wearer’s surroundings and immediately transmit them to American data centers for analysis and potential immediate access by the NSA.

This natural threat and suspicion will only increase as Google continues to make it harder for others to detect SpyGlass capability on someone, or if a Spyglass is recording. Apparently, Google’s latest iteration of Glass makes them appear more normal, i.e. better disguised. In other words, the marketing need to make them less visually obtrusive or noticeable makes them more disguised, deceptive, and potentially more invasive from a privacy, security and spying perspective.

Exacerbating this SpyGlass-disguise trend, we now know that Google has devised remote control capability for Google’s SpyGlass, so a person no longer needs to publicly touch or speak to Glass to start it recording. Now they can “surreptitiously” push buttons on a remote in their pocket so the people around them are unaware they are being surveilled by Google or potentially the NSA.

Google’s pervasively invasive surveillance behavior can easily be mistaken by suspicious people as spying. No one but Google has a public mission to organize the world’s public and private information. Moreover, Google’s hallmark -- innovation-without-permission -- means Google does not think its needs any individual’s  permission or any sovereign country’s authorization to do whatever it wants with their private information or property inside or outside the U.S.  

Furthermore Google has repeatedly and systematically spied on people without their knowledge or permission or sovereign authorization. Google Earth web-published satellite views of most all homes, buildings and places – public and private without anyone else’s input. Gmail routinely scans the email messages non-Gmail users for advertising intelligence without their knowledge or consent when they happen to email a Gmail user.

Google StreetView web-published pictures of hundreds of millions of people’s private homes – all without their knowledge, permission or opt-out in over 33 countries -- to the ultimate delight of burglars everywhere.

When the German privacy regulator discovered Google StreetView cars were war-driving (i.e. vacuuming private WiFi communications, emails, passwords, etc. without anyone’s knowledge or permission) with a fleet of thousands of cars in 33 countries over three years, Google’s official story at the time, and to this day, was that it was the “mistake” of one rogue engineer and that no one else at Google knew it was going on. (BTW, the FCC fined Google for impeding its investigation of this matter in the U.S.

[Update 9-16-13: "Gmail is the preferred Internet service provider of terrorists worldwide.” "I don't think you're going to see that in a Google commercial, but it's free, it's ubiquitous, so of course it is.", said  Former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden, in the Washington Post, 9-16-13.]

It is this ignominious history of pervasively invasive spying on people that Google’s Spyglass builds upon and must cope with. And Google’s SpyGlass is clearly Google’s most in-your-face invasion of people’s privacy to date.

Since about 90% of Google users are not American and those foreign users account for 55% of Google’s revenues, most of the potential market for Google SpyGlass is rest-of-world. That suggests that any current estimates or expectations about worldwide Glass sales may be overstated if they assume that the rest-of-world market is similar to Google’s U.S. experience. 

No one should be surprised if many foreign governments ban or severely restrict the availability or use of Google SpyGlass for “national security” concerns. China and Russia are unlikely to welcome unfettered Google SpyGlass. SpyGlass use in the half of the world’s countries which are authoritarian or semi-authoritarian, could put SpyGlass users at serious risk of arrest or harm for being perceived to be American spies. Google should at least consider adding warning labels to Google SpyGlass to protect the safety of its buyers in many countries.

Even the EU could be less welcoming of Google SpyGlass because Google is currently snubbing, ignoring, and warring with EU’s privacy regulators who object to Google’s new privacy policy that does not give users any choice to opt out, and does not require EU citizens’ private data be stored on EU soil. 

Simply, post-Snowden, post-Google-privacy-problems, Google’s Spyglass product could face a big rest-of-world trust problem. Fair or unfair, many foreign interests could view Google Glass as Google’s SpyGlass or as Team NSA headgear.    

Google’s Disrespect for Privacy Series

Part 1: Why Google is the Biggest Threat to Americans' Privacy; House Testimony [7-18-08]

Part 2: Google Book Settlement "absolutely silent on user privacy" [8-31-09]

Part 3: Yet more evidence of Google's hostility to privacy [9-4-09]

Part 4: Google's Schmidt: "Because we say so" on trusting Google's Privacy Dashboard [11-6-09]

Part 5: Fact Checking Google's New Privacy Principles [1-28-10]

Part 6: Google's Privacy "Buzz" Saw [2-11-10]

Part 7: Exposing Google's Systemic Privacy Vulnerabilities [5-15-10]

Part 8: What Private Information Google Collects -- A One-Page Fact Sheet [5-24-10]

Part 9: What else does Google secretly track? Top 10 questions for privacy investigators [6-2-10]

Part 10: Google's "Total Information Awareness" Power - A one-page graphic [6-4-10]

Part 11: Americans want online privacy -- per new Zogby poll [6-8-10]

Part 12: Why Privacy Is an Antitrust Issue & Why Google is its Poster Child [7-22-10]

Part 13: Google's Deep Tracking Inspection -- a privacy nightmare [8-31-10]

Part 14: Why is the FTC AWOL on Google Privacy? [10-27-10]

Part 15: Why Google's Privacy Controls are a Joke -- Lessons for FTC/FCC [11-11-10]

Part 16: Google's No Privacy by Design Business Model [3-17-11]

Part 17: FTC-Google Privacy Settlement Takeaways [3-31-11]

Part 18: Google vs Apple: How Business Models Drive Disrespect vs. Respect for Privacy [5-6-11]

Part 19: Big Brother Inc. -- My Huffington Post Op-ed on Google & Privacy [5-24-11]

Part 20: "G-Male:" a very funny new Google privacy satire [9-7-11]

Part 21: Where's the Market for Online Privacy? [1-31-12]

Part 22: Google's Latest Privacy Scandal Spin – A Satire [2-17-12]

Part 23: Google's Top 35 Privacy Scandals [2-22-12]

Part 24: Google's Privacy Excuse Algorithm Team - a Satire [3-16-12]

Part 25: Google's Privacy Rap Sheet [6-14-12]

Part 26: Why FTC's $22.5m Google Privacy-Fine is Faux Accountability [7-12-12]

Part 27: Google's Top Ten Anti-Privacy Quotes [10-15-12]

Part 28: The Unique Google Privacy Problem -- Korean Privacy Council in Seoul [10-25-12]

Part 29: Google's Privacy Words vs. Google's Anti-Privacy Deeds [3-8-13]

Part 30: Google’s Privacy Rap Sheet: Fact-Checking Google’s Claims on Privacy [3-13-13]

Part 31: Google’s Creepy Glass-arazzi? [3-14-13]

Part 32: Six EU nations Revolt over Google’s Virtual Colonialization of their Private Data [4-5-13]

Part 33: Big Brother Inc. – a One-page Graphic [6-10-13]

Part 34: Google Spy [7-8-13]