Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Google Glass & Gibson's Virtual Light


From today's BBC article “Privacy 'impossible' with Google Glass warn campaigners:”
Google Glass and other augmented reality gadgets risk creating a world in which privacy is impossible, warn campaigners. The warning comes from a group called "Stop the Cyborgs" that wants limits put on when headsets can be used. It has produced posters so premises can warn wearers that the glasses are banned or recording is not permitted.
If you’d like to read a book which features augmented reality glasses, try William Gibson’s science fiction novel Virtual Light:
Welcome to NoCal and SoCal, the uneasy sister-states of what used to be California. Here the millennium has come and gone, leaving in its wake only stunned survivors. In Los Angeles, Berry Rydell is a former armed-response rentacop now working for a bounty hunter. Chevette Washington is a bicycle messenger turned pick-pocket who impulsively snatches a pair of innocent-looking sunglasses. But these are no ordinary shades. What you can see through these high-tech specs can make you rich--or get you killed. Now Berry and Chevette are on the run…
For speculation on what the future of Google Glass might hold, I recommend PC World’s 2012 editorial “Google Glass Horror Stories From Your Privacy-Free Future:”
Google has amassed immense power by cataloging and analyzing the Internet, as well as selling ads there. They are masters of that universe. Like many other tech companies, however, Google isn’t satisfied with such a confined sphere of influence. Google has been searching for ways to treat things in the real world the way it treats things in the digital domain, by numbering, locating, mapping, cataloging, and analyzing them... 
What’s to prevent Google from tracking the movements of our eyeballs to discover the things that catch our attention? When I walk out of my apartment building, for example, a car might pass by that turns my head; I might glance at it in spite of myself. Could the Google Glass technology form a heat map showing the things my eyes rested on? Perhaps someday the technology will be able to measure how fast and how far I turned my head to look at something, and then develop a likelihood-to-buy score based on that. Call it the Whiplash Index. Capturing that kind of data is the stuff of fantasy for marketers, a simple and direct indication of which types of ads to push at the viewer, and when to deliver them… 
Then there’s facial recognition. That technology is unsettling enough when it identifies faces in still pictures or recorded video. But if Google Glass were connected to a server that could recognize faces, facial recognition could happen in real time. Potentially, the wearer could scan a crowd of people and see labels above those who happened to be friends of friends of friends in Google+… This might not be a big deal if just a few people in every city were to end up wearing Google Glass. But what if the device were to catch on, becoming as big as the iPhone is today? All those glasses would be collecting monstrous amounts of audio and video information every minute of every day, possibly piping the data through the network for storage in some vast server farm… Judging from the wording of Google’s overarching privacy policy and terms of use, the sounds and images that Google Glass records would not be the property of the person wearing the glasses. Google could use those sounds and images for whatever it wants.

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