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Cool or creepy? Google Glass raises ethics issues

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Cool or creepy? Google Glass raises ethics issues

By Craig Smith. CREATED Nov 5, 2013

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It's some cool tech that raises a hot issue.  The new device Google calls Google Glass lets you wear the power of the internet right before your eyes, but the way it lets you video every thing you see makes some worry privacy becoming something that's so 20th Century.

Google Glass lets you record everything you see, while you see the world---and the world of the internet at the same time. But when does cool, cross into creepy?

Students at University of Arizona are very comfortable with tech like their smartphones, but when we asked about Google Glass and what it can do we got reactions like:

"It's a little far.  I mean it's cool, it's innovative and everything but, I don't know." 

"Did you say it snaps pictures?"

When told: "It can get video; video and sound", they asked, "But then what if people don't want to be on camera all the time."
A comedy bit Dartanion London put on You Tube imagines a guy using Google Glass to background check his blind date.

The unseen man says to his smiling date:

"So it's Jennifer...Swanson."

As soon as he has her name he whispers to Google Glass: "Google Jennifer Swanson."

His Google search finds photos of the woman playing with a dog.

"Do you like dogs?"

"I do," she gushes, "How did you know that?"

"A...lucky guess, he says."

Google Glass channels what you see and what you ask about through Google's servers.  The company is upfront about disclosing it will use what it learns about you to target advertising to your interests.

Google is not selling Google Glass on the open market just yet.  The first users---Google calls them Explorers---won a competition to buy glass by giving the most impressive answer to the question, "if I had glass".
The two thousand people Google selected could buy the device for 15 hundred dollars.
Google Glass can send your whole day down the internet and through Google's system.

KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked computer expert Scott Greene, "So it's almost as if they're one step short of being tapped into your brain."

Greene: "They're following you all the time."
Scott Greene is with a company called Computer Solutions.  He extracts computer and cell phone data for court cases so he knows how much of your life a cell phone can capture.  He says what if you're wearing Google Glass, accidentally record a robbery and police want your recording?

Craig Smith said, "Well, and I could say, fine, I'm a public spirited citizen you can certainly have what I had if it helps solve a crime, but what then?" 

Greene: "Well the problem then is they might look through other portions of your life and other portions of that day to see what else is going on."

University of Arizona Law Professor Derek Bambauer says that's already happened.

"There's already been someone who captured a fight on Google Glass and shared the information with the police."
Bambauer is an expert in internet law.

He says, "Sometimes the technology gives us new capabilities where we as a society haven't fully thought through what to do yet."
Both Bambauer and Scott Greene say there will be places that ban Google Glass and other devices like it that are not so easy to spot.

Bambauer asks, "What happens if you actually capture confidential information at work? The secret formula for Coke or you're a doctor and you look down at your screen and capture an image of a patient's health record?"

But a quick look at Facebook or You Tube shows some people are already careless about posting pictures that could haunt them later.  What will they capture when they forget wearable tech is watching all the time?

Craig Smith

Craig Smith

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Craig enjoys using innovative writing and visuals to make difficult stories easier to understand. As a newsroom manager at KGUN 9, Craig was part of the team that won three best newscast awards from Arizona Associated Press