A look at Google Glass’s privacy issues and terms of service by Judith Delaney, attorney.
On April 15, 2014, Google had a one day sale of its Google Glass. This beta version cost $1,500 a pop that you had to pay by using Google wallet. Needless to say a price that is not realistic for most of us.
So why am I writing about this? Well, for two reasons.
The first reason: I live in the San Francisco bay area where Google also lives and the public sale of this very expensive, wearable technology has become a symbol for a revolution based on a perception by some people that the original purpose for Google’s existence – to be a great search engine in this Digital world – has been replaced with an elitist attitude that has resulted in forcing long time residents out of their homes and apartment for Google’s own selfish indulgences; and using Google Glass to invade their privacy. For instance: Doug Gross, CNN, in his article titled “Google Glass targeted as symbol by anti-tech crowd” (April 15, 2014) cited, as an example of this perception, the April 11, 2014 march by protestors that targeted Jack Helperin, an attorney for Google, who protestors say bought a building, where he intended to live and evicted tenants who had been renting there. In other words the “let them eat cake” attitude by Google and some of its employees (you know – the Marie Antoinette attitude towards the French masses that eventually got her beheaded) have in truth displaced and disrupted lives.
So, whether you agree or not, the importance of knowing what is happening in the city of San Francisco belies a symptom of social media platforms such as Google becoming less than transparent as to its motives of exactly why it appears to continue to divert from its original purpose to its seemingly never ending hunger to collect and monetize a person’s life experiences that should, if they so chose, respectfully remain private.
This leads me to and enforces my second reason for writing this article: The use of Google Glass to invade and violate the privacy of others.
For the past year or so Google has been testing the Google Glass beta prototype. This has been done by a select group of people Google calls its “Explorers”. The issue of privacy arose when, in the process of doing their public field testing of Google Glass, some of these Explorers chose to ignore privacy laws or just the reasonableness of common courtesy in asking first before taking photos or shooting videos or recording conversations of people going about their lives, and instantly posting them to, say, Google’s YouTube. This basic tenant of respecting one’s privacy has prompted concerns by people worldwide that Google, in developing a device that allows its users to discreetly photograph or video tape or record peoples’ conversations without their knowledge, is being invasive; violating their right to privacy; and just downright rude (leading the Google user of Google Glass to be dubbed “Glassholes” as Whoopi Goldberg reminded the world while discussing this privacy issue on the show the “View”.)
So just what is Google Glass?
Well, Google Glass is Google’s answer to replace your computer, your Smartphone, your tablet and just about every other device that you carry around or have locked to your ear in order to access the Internet for that instantaneous gratification we all seem to need. It is in the form of a pair of glasses you wear with a little device on the right hand side that contains a camera, microphone, display, touch-pad and battery that enables you, as the user, to view, collect and share information wherever you are.
It also can actively or passively record everything and everyone whether the user is knowingly doing so or is what Google calls in his/her “Glass Out” stage – meaning they have not turned the device off as they continue to be in their space (walking; in a meeting; etc.) or just sitting idly but are not actively recording or videotaping or eavesdropping on a conversation. In either case, this data is automatically uploaded through Google Glass to Google’ servers where it is stored and disseminated by Google worldwide.
And therein lays the issue– the continuance of the erosion of a worldwide expectation of the right of people to their privacy.
Google’s Terms of Service tells the truth
Now, you can read article after article that would dismiss the idea that the users of Google Glass are Google’s enablers in its latest attempt to collect even more data, including personal and private information worldwide to meet the growing monetary demands of its stakeholders. For many of its followers this position becomes the truth whether it is or not.
Yet, Google clearly states in its Terms of Services Agreement, which by default a user agrees to as a legally binding document that:
- When accessing and using Google’s services and products (e.g. Google Glass) the user owns or has received permission to post all the data it uploads; and
- That same user agrees that such data becomes public information to be stored and disseminated as Google determines in its discretion; and
- If someone’s privacy has been violated, well, that is the user’s problem not Google’s.
That is the truth.
So, if you are one of those that have or will purchase Google Glass, keep in mind before you invade or violate another person’s privacy without their permission when you upload that photo or video or conversation, intentionally or not, you may pay a steep price for violating privacy laws and other legal issues, the consequences of which can be life changing.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is provided only as general information and may or may not reflect the most current legal developments; accordingly, this information is not promised or guaranteed to be correct or complete and is not intended to create, or constitute formation of, an attorney-client relationship. The author expressly disclaims all liability in law or otherwise in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all the contents of this chapter or related information.
Judith Delaney is an attorney who specializes in global online privacy laws and issues and social media law. Judith helps organizations integrate new media strategies with business strategies to effectively manage risk associated with online compliance such as the HIPPA Omnibus Rule, global social media private and data protections and contract risk management.