Google Glass already has some lawmakers on high alert
Lawmakers and privacy experts are wary of how Google Glass could be used, whether to snap photos covertly or to let drivers watch videos.
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Electronic surveillance laws, both on the federal and state levels, were first established to protect telephone wiretapping and later extended to cover data technologies, particularly mobile phones. But data from the National Conference of State Legislatures in Washington show that the scope of those laws differ by state, such as whether or not it will expand to include mobile devices, if it covers video or audio or both, and how many, if any, people being recorded need to provide their consent.Skip to next paragraph
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Then there is Vermont, which to date has no law on its books addressing surveillance, although the state Supreme Court has established that residents in the state have the expectation of privacy in their homes.
Benjamin Wright, a Dallas attorney who specializes on cyber-technology issues, says the speed in which the digital realm moves will make it impossible to regulate.
“We’re living in the Buck Rogers age and have all this science fiction technology politicians didn’t comprehend when they wrote a number of these laws,” Mr. Wright says.
The burden should be on Google and other companies to set limits or safeguards involving its use. “These problems are ubiquitous in our society and the answers emerge slowly. You end up with this tremendous field of gray in front of you when you try to ask what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says.
Digital-rights experts say that the recording elements of Google Glass are likely protected under the First Amendment and that mobile recording is essential for journalists and activists, as evidenced by the "Occupy" movement, which captured images of brutality by law enforcement.
“This kind of technology has been empowering for people, and it’s really important that we can preserve these uses at all times,” says Rebecca Jeschke, an analyst with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.
What worries her about Google Glass is that it represents a more-refined tool for Google to learn about the interests and movement of its users.
“Google already knows too much about me. I’m more concerned about third parties, whether it’s Google, Yahoo, or Apple, knowing about my habits and about my life. It’s much more important” than the glasses, she says.
That concern is echoed by a new website, StoptheCyborgs.org, launched this month to protest Google Glass.
“Even if the user is not recording video, audio for their own use, it may still be being collected and processed in the cloud in order to display contextual information using image, object, face, voice identification, and speech recognition.... There will be no space in which you can escape your online profile, and the system will be controlled by a small group of corporations,” the website states.
Ms. Wang of Forrester Research says that, because technology is always pushing boundaries that are considered traditionally acceptable, or even legal, lawmakers are expected to modify existing laws to protect consumers. But a price is paid if regulation comes down too hard.
“They do need to be on the consumer side, so consumer privacy goals are somewhat guarded by the laws and regulations, otherwise the corporations will do anything,” she says. “However, there is a delicate balance because you don’t want to be too restrictive, so there won’t be any innovation.”
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