Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Google Glass and other augmented reality gadgets risk creating a world in which privacy is impossible, warn campaigners.
The warning comes from a group called "Stop the Cyborgs" that wants limits put on when headsets can be used.
It has produced posters so premises can warn wearers that the glasses are banned or recording is not permitted.
The campaign comes as politicians, lawyers and bloggers debate how the gadgets will change civil society.
"We are not calling for a total ban," one of the campaign workers called Jack told the BBC in a message sent via anonymised email service Hushmail.
"Rather we want people to actively set social and physical bounds around the use of technologies and not just fatalistically accept the direction technology is heading in," he wrote.
Based in London, the Stop The Cyborgs campaign began at the end of February, he said, and the group did not expect much to happen before the launch of Google Glass in 2014.Personal privacy
However, the launch coincided with a push on Twitter by Google to get people thinking about what they would do if they had a pair of the augmented reality spectacles. The camera-equipped headset suspends a small screen in front of an owner and pipes information to that display. The camera and other functions are voice controlled.
Google's push, coupled with the announcement by the 5 Point Cafe in Seattle to pre-emptively ban users of the gadget, has generated a lot of debate and given the campaign a boost, he said.
Posters produced by the campaign that warn people not to use Google Glass or other personal surveillance devices had been downloaded thousands of times, said Jack.
In addition, he said, coverage of the Glass project in mainstream media and on the web had swiftly turned from "amazing new gadget that will improve the world" to "the most controversial device in history".
The limits that the Stop The Cyborg campaign wants placed on Google Glass and similar devices would involve a clear way to let people know when they are being recorded.
"It's important for society and democracy that people can chat and live without fear that they might end up being published or prosecuted," it said in a manifesto reproduced on its website.
"We are not anti-technology," said Jack. "We just want people to realise that technology is a powerful cultural force which shapes our society and which we can also shape."
In a statement, Google said: "We are putting a lot of thought into how we design Glass because new technology always raises important new issues for society."
"Our Glass Explorer program will give all of us the chance to be active participants in shaping the future of this technology, including its features and social norms," it said.
Already some US states are looking to impose other limits on augmented reality devices. West Virginia is reportedly preparing a law that will make it illegal to use such devices while driving. Those breaking the law would face heavy fines.
In addition, bloggers are debating the influence of augmented reality spectacles on everyday life. Blogger Ed Champion wrote up 35 arguments about the gadget saying it could force all kinds of unwanted changes. He warned it could stifle the freedom people currently have to enjoy themselves because they know they are not being watched.