Today, Google released this video of Google Glass, an augmented reality project:
Beautiful, right? It’s a virtual assistant that sticks with you wherever you go.
Exciting features debuted in the video include:
- Automatic geo-tracking of both you and your friends.
- Seamless photo-taking and live video broadcasting from anywhere you can put your head.
- A head-up display that occupies some of the visual channel.
- Everything you see – your visual reality – is augmented through a single company.
- You are continuously recording information about the people around you as well as yourself.
Okay, I confess: by beautiful, I meant scary. Leaving aside the implications of having our ambient information spoon-fed to us rather than discerned through inference and discovery, this project opens an ethical can of worms, and asks important questions about Silicon Valley’s attitude towards other peoples’ privacy.
Indeed, traditionally, this isn’t a can of worms that Silicon Valley has been very good at dealing with. Android phones encourage you to link your friends’ accounts together, joining their Facebook details to their Google details, for example. There hasn’t been a strong line between information that is yours, information about you that you’re happy to share, and information that you’re gathering about other people. It seems clear to me that people should know what they’re sharing about themselves, should have to opt in to do so, and should not be able to share personal information about other people without those people opting in. That doesn’t seem to be an opinion that Silicon Valley shares with me. Most free services are a Katamari-like information-gathering free-for-all.
I’m a fan of many, many things that Google does, and kudos to the product team that’s putting Google Glass together. It’s a very significant achievement. But from a social perspective, there’s a lot of work still to be done.