COMMENTARY | Talk about a rough night! A woman was physically assaulted at a San Fransisco bar for wearing Google Glass, which evidently angered many patrons who did not want to be filmed. The woman, a tech writer, had her Google Glass ripped from her face and also had her phone and purse stolen, reports CBS. A man accompanying the tech writer was also involved in a physical altercation with a man who insulted her, say witnesses. In the end, the Glass was recovered but the purse and phone remained missing.
The aftermath of the assault has seen loyalties divided, with many appalled by the occurrence but some suggesting that wearing Google Glass to a bar, and continuing to wear it after patrons began complaining, was asking for trouble. As “wearable computers” like Google Glass continue to proliferate such alleged social faux pas will increase significantly…are we at risk for a wave of “surveillance rage” assaults? Will wearing portable cameras be likely to anger those who don’t want to be filmed?
Importantly, how will legislatures and courts handle confrontations and violence provoked by someone refusing to remove his or her portable camera? Will such a refusal be viewed as “fighting words,” meaning a direct challenge that a reasonable person would know was likely to offend, or will it be viewed as freedom of expression and personal property rights? Will place and time of the confrontation matter? For example, will courts decide that a reasonable person should know that wearing Google Glass in a bar will likely anger other patrons? Can stores, bars, restaurants, and other businesses remove liability by posting signs indicating that wearable computers are banned?
The melding of a camera with glasses has definitely created a quandary. The quandary will become exponentially more complex if and when the camera-equipped glasses come fitted with prescription lenses. At that point the glasses cannot simply be removed – the individual needs them to see! Similarly, when wearable computers become embedded in clothing it becomes impossible to prevent their access to our most private areas – bars, private lounges, locker rooms, restrooms. After all, it is hard to demand that people disrobe prior to entering these areas!
“No photography, please” or “No filming, please” becomes meaningless. It cannot be stopped, or even detected. The wearer of the portable computer can use whispered voice commands, or even hand motions, to begin the surreptitious filming of anyone.
Though the unfortunate woman in San Fransisco should never have been assaulted, her faux pas raises an important debate and creates the worrying possibility of a wave of wearable computer violence. People will get angry about the possibility of being filmed in their most private moments and many may respond with violence. It may not be right, but it will happen. Are we prepared?