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Wednesday, May 29th, 2013, 4:35 pm

Google Glass: Wearable Surveillance


OTHER than the fact that Google Glass is Linux-powered and partly Free/Open Source, I have never had interest in Google Glass. The fact that it is hackable — in the sense one can install one’s own system on the hardware — sure makes a difference, but most people will never practise this freedom. As long as Google, by default, hoovers in data from Google Glass (like it does on the Nexus series), the data is easily accessible to the Surveillance Industrial Complex. This ties into the previous post about peer-surveillance. There is no escaping it and there is reason to antagonise Google Glass as a concept, irrespective of whether one buys/uses it. A lot of people will have no choice as to whether their life(as dynamic imagery) is taken and then uploaded to a datacentre with weak data sharing/protection/retention policy. This is not the same as CCTV. Here we talk about videos that are captured in private spaces, too, more so than surveillance drones whose motion is limited to aerial and is still privacy-infringing, albeit they’re less ubiquitous due to cost, air traffic control, legislation and so on.

This is not about resisting a brand. It’s not hating advancement or fearing the future as Google likes to paint it. It is about telling the difference between marketing (the technology for Google Glass as an implementable concept has been around for decades) and societal effects. It’s like antagonising proprietary software for its effects on society, regardless of practical uses. Fog Computing (‘cloud’) should be rejected on similar grounds. Not everything that can be done should be done, at least or especially if it disregards the consent of non-participants.

To the user, the novelty here is the size of the hardware, the image resolution, and the wireless connection speeds (not related to Google at all).

To the Surveillance Industrial Complex, the novelty here is the ability to access a private (i.e. not accessible by us) database of videos for any given person queried (identity can be derived in a variety of ways, ranging from inter-personal connections to audio, video, and geographical location).

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