Can Google Glass fit into society without breaking the law?

As cool as Google Glass may be, as much as some people want one, it'll be a mess for the legal world.

One of the new realities of music concerts is the vast majority of the audience holding up their phones to take still or moving images. With Glass, it might be filming, it might not. You'd never know from looking at it as an outsider.

That will be a field day for police and criminals. Bloggers or reporters covering local issues will get harassed. Anyone who looks suspicious in train stations or airports will be hassled about what they're filming. If you're near a school, are you a parent filming your child running out to greet you, or a paedophile?

Cool to wear but the world of Google Glass is a legal mess. AP

Cool to wear but the world of Google Glass is a legal mess. AP

I am already cautious about taking photos on the street as a reporter, having once been threatened for doing so. The paranoia when you see anyone wearing Glass could be even more pronounced.

France, with some of the most restrictive laws about pictures of people in public places, could easily be expected to outlaw Glass on the streets. A bar in Seattle has already banned their use.

If police forces start wearing Glass, uploading information directly to central locations, do we know what happens to that data? Do we have the right to ask police to destroy it if not relating to a crime? Will it be treated the same as other collected data or do new rules need to be written?

Will it be used to clamp down on protest movements in the Arab world or anti-corruption demonstrations? Will some Indian men use it to upload images and comments about women on the street? If cyber bullying is already a huge problem, will Glass enable it even more than social media?

As usual, the law is behind technology. That's not surprising, considering the impossibility of legislating for ideas which don't yet exist. The rights of robots, the privacy of data, the ownership of photos on social media, the ethics of gender selection in reproduction, cyber terrorism - these are vastly complicated, cross-border and ethically messy questions that constantly have to be addressed. As annoying as it may be, legislators and society will regularly need to debate the innovations and discoveries of science and industry.

Augmenting reality, as Google Glass is said to do, is a fascinating topic and in no way should its development be halted. But the reality is enhanced for the individual, not the people surrounding that individual. In fact, the interaction with others is dependent on their connectivity. If someone is not connected to the web or lacks digital identities, then what reality will be augmented? You can tag them with your location, but they are a void without a Facebook or Twitter account or an identity that is dependent on technology.

Serious and rational questions need to be asked about technology such as Google Glass and how it fits into the civic landscape. It's easy to get caught up in the debate about whether individuals will buy it and how it will make individual lives better. But we exist together, technology sending us hurtling towards each other, sometimes against our wishes.

I may be in the last generation to have legal and ethical concerns about technology. But sometimes the real world can't simply be viewed through rose-tinted glasses.

Published Date: May 01, 2013 12:35 PM | Updated Date: May 01, 2013 12:35 PM