Baratz, Maya, Newsweek
Byline: Maya Baratz
Beware Google glasses.
The best technology, as Google cofounder Sergey Brin recently noted at the company's annual developer conference, "gets out of the way" while helping you do what you want to do. Brin was introducing Project Glass, computerized eyewear that works like a hands-free smartphone, displaying messages, images, and maps onto the world in front of you. The glasses also have built-in cameras, allowing you to capture moments without disrupting them--moments like Brin tossing his son in the air. "Obviously," Brin pointed out, "I couldn't capture that with a camera or I'd drop my son."
But the thing that makes wearable computers like Project Glass appealing--their ability to fade into the background--is also what makes them potentially risky. Unlike camera phones, where lifting the device and snapping a picture will probably tip off your subject that he or she is being photographed, wearable devices can be on for hours, unobtrusively recording everyone in your line of sight and sharing the footage online. This is a threat to privacy you can't opt out of by simply choosing not to use the technology; so long as other people are wearing the devices, you'll have to assume you're on camera.
What's more, the footage may ultimately be owned by Google, or whichever company ends up dominating the wearable computer market, and governments and courts will likely demand access to it--as they've already done with Google, smartphones, and Twitter. …