back to article Google: Glass goggles are a 'fairly lousy surveillance device'

Google's creepy Glass wearable could breach Britain's Data Protection law, the Information Commissioner's office has warned. The ad giant began flogging the device in Blighty this week for £1,000 a pop. That move prompted the country's data watchdog to outline the "privacy implications of wearable technology" in a blog post …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    only collecting information that is relevant, adequate and not excessive

    Google!...

    Ha ha ha ha bump.

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Worthless conditionals

    > ... could breach Britain's Data Protection law

    yes, and my house "may" be at risk ....

    Don't give me wishy-washy possibilities: anything might do anything. Tell me what will or does happen - or stop wasting people's time.

    The point of a government watchdog is not to wring its hands and say "well ... it might (or might not)" Hell, I could train a frog to jump onto "might" or "might not" lily leaves and it would have the same value as a statement of the legal position. If these guys don't know what's going on then we have to ask: what's the point of them? If it will need some case law to decide, then surely these people should keep their gobs shut until such clarity has been obtained.

    File under: publicly financed waste of space.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Worthless conditionals

      Don't give me wishy-washy possibilities: anything might do anything. Tell me what will or does happen

      The idea is to warn people that there is a possibility so that they think about what they do. It's a heads up (if you pardon the pun in context with Glass) that laws haven't been magically suspended because the device is made and tapped by Google.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Worthless conditionals

      Don't give me wishy-washy possibilities: anything might do anything. Tell me what will or does happen - or stop wasting people's time.

      Is it illegal, to drink and drive on a pavement whilst blindfolded? Not one person has clarified that particular point for me.

      If you want to know then read the DPA. They can't cover 25 billion possibilities of what may happen.

    3. VinceH

      Re: Worthless conditionals

      "Don't give me wishy-washy possibilities: anything might do anything."

      RTFA and RTFBP.

      The reason for the 'wishy washy' bit at the start is because whether the use of Glass breaches the data protection law depends who/what/why/where. Both the blog post and the article (by quoting the blog post) give examples; still fairly generalised but a lot less 'wishy washy' than the use of 'could' you've kicked off about.

    4. xpusostomos

      Re: Worthless conditionals

      It's called Quantum laws. You can never say what it says until you go to court, then there are only probabilities of outcome. Don't whine, it's science.

  3. James Hughes 1

    Presumably..

    the same applies to any sort of computer based recording machine, a class of device to which Glass belongs.

    So, smartphones, tablets etc must also be covered.

    So why single out Glass just because you wear it. TBH, it quite obvious when someone is wearing it. Not so obvious when someone is using a more hidden device.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Presumably..

      So why single out Glass just because you wear it. TBH, it quite obvious when someone is wearing it. Not so obvious when someone is using a more hidden device.

      Google Glass is like an aways-on spy for Google, there at a moment's notice and only a black market away from doing so without people knowing, yet still leaving you with the excuse of "oops, I forgot I turned it on".

      A smartphone needs aiming and it's pretty clear that you're taking pictures or recording, whereas being discovered with a covert device is a clear hint that you never intended to obey any applicable laws.

      Google Glass is an *extremely* dangerous device in more ways than one.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Presumably..

        I wouldn't say that a smartphone needs to be aimed or obvious that it's clear that you're taking pictures or recording. Just with the bare thought of the situation now, I could set my smartphone to record, stick it in my shirt pocket and merrily record.

        OK, the damn thing would doubtless fall out within minutes, the shirt pocket on the shirt I'm wearing today would cover the lens, and pointing my chest at people could be obvious... but the principle is still there.

      2. RyokuMas
        Big Brother

        Re: Presumably..

        "Google Glass is like an a[l]ways-on spy for Google"

        ... and even if it isn't always on and calling home (which is as likely or unlikely as your personal tinfoil-hattedness), it runs Android. So it'll only be a matter of time before someone gets some bit of malware out there to turn it into their own always-on spy device - as we all know, the average user is not exactly brilliant at reading through that list of required permissions before installing.

        People are right to be worried about this - regardless of what they may think of Google as a corporate entity.

      3. xpusostomos

        Re: Presumably..

        It's way easier to hide and disguise a smart phone than this thing sitting in the middle of your face.

    2. MrXavia

      Re: Presumably..

      There is a big difference to taking a video with a camera and wearing one on your head that can capture everything...

      Simply put if you plan on having CCTV, you plan where you put it and why you need it... ensuring you put up the right signs if your a business...

      If you have someone hold up a camera, you do it for a reason again you tell people why or your recording within the rights you have...

      But with google glass, recording video is always on, and unlike CCTV, it is mobile, unlike a video camera or digital camera, it is not obvious that they are using it... I.E you have no idea if the person is reading an email, doing nothing or recording everything you say and do...

      I have no problem with CCTV, I have no problem with people taking pictures or video in public...

      BUT I do have a problem with people wearing a video camera on their heads all day, or recording conversations when I talk to them (and you KNOW that if companies have employees wear them, they will record the conversations)

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Presumably..

        But with google glass, recording video is always on, and unlike CCTV, it is mobile, unlike a video camera or digital camera, it is not obvious that they are using it... I.E you have no idea if the person is reading an email, doing nothing or recording everything you say and do...

        Video recording isn't always on, and video recording drains the battery like you wouldn't believe. When recording is in progress, a little LED is lit (while this is technically maskable, it is more obvious than a mobile), and if somebody is using a google glass, it's quite obvious due to their focus point. When you see one for real rather than repeating hypebole, you'll understand.

        For more: http://phandroid.com/2014/03/21/top-10-google-glass-myths-debunked/

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Presumably..

          "When recording is in progress, a little LED is lit "

          Just out of curiosity, is that LED hard-wired to the V+ line of the camera or is it controlled by the software?

          ISTR some scandal in the US with highschool students and loan, cheap or sponsored laptops taking photos as part of their anti-theft system "mis-firing" and taking photos of the students in their bedrooms without any LED indicator triggering as it normally would.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Presumably..

        Surely if Google Glass gets banned (or modified so it cant record/take pictures) then anyone using a Head Based Video Recorder must be banned to..

        E.g. GoPro's, Dash Cams, Cyclists who use camera's to evidence idiot drivers etc

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Presumably..

        "(and you KNOW that if companies have employees wear them, they will record the conversations)"

        Which simply means that you'd better not tell porkies when you claim what was said. What are you afraid of?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is no different that following people around with Video Cameras

    So get that Busty Blond's consent in writing before you look at her through your spyglasses.

    1. 's water music

      Re: It is no different that following people around with Video Cameras

      Busty... ...Blond... ...her

      I'd check the small print if I were you

      :-)

      1. monkeyfish

        Re: It is no different that following people around with Video Cameras

        Or standing at some considerable distance with a Very Long Lens.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: It is no different that following people around with Video Cameras

          This brings to mind a favourite low-cut T-Shirt that a well-endowed female friend likes to wear. It has a square of very small text somewhere just below the neckline in the cleavage area saying:

          "Stop staring at my tits"

  5. auburnman
    Windows

    If glass ever takes off the way smartphones did, I think we could be heading for a legal clash between the right to use cameras in a public space versus the level of intrusion inherent in ubiquitous worn recording devices. Under the 'people are bastards' theory it's not hard to imagine surreptitiously catching people off guard becoming an urban sport. We all know the dark side of some folk comes out when you give the the safety and anonymity of the internet; the cynic inside me is screaming that www.lookatthisuglyfucker.com is only years away.

    Trampjuice icon because I'm rambling. It's Friday, need to pass the time somehow

    1. petur

      I guess it won't take long anymore before they offer a version without camera....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Do people even realise how many times you are captured on video every single day if you live in a city?

      If you had an embarrasing moment, the chance that it was caught on CCTV would be so much higher than the chance that a Glass wearer had, just before the incident, decided to start recording a video (CCTV generally records 24x7). It's not as though most CCTV is run by any public body which has to comply with regulations. Most of it is by private individuals who are going to have no concerns about putting it up on youtube.

      As for "Paterson added that wearables containing cameras used by Glasshole organisations to capture video or pictures will need to adhere to the regulator's CCTV code of practice, which is currently undergoing a review."

      This is false, people do not need to adhere to the "regulator's CCTV code of practice" at all. It's a code of practice (not law) and it doesn't even apply to individuals recording in public.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The line does specifically say " by .... organisations"

        A "code of practice" in any area is usually is the best way for individuals and organizations to stay on the right side of the law.

      2. Tom 38 Silver badge

        As for "Paterson added that wearables containing cameras used by Glasshole organisations to capture video or pictures will need to adhere to the regulator's CCTV code of practice, which is currently undergoing a review."

        This is false, people do not need to adhere to the "regulator's CCTV code of practice" at all. It's a code of practice (not law) and it doesn't even apply to individuals recording in public.

        Clarified? In the UK, organizations do not have the same rights as people.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Clarified? In the UK, organizations do not have the same rights as people."

          No not at all. Individuals work for an organisations.Individuals (working for an organisation) recording in public aren't covered by that code of practice (not law).

          One of the clues is in the initialism "CCTV" - it means Closed-Circuit Television. This code is not for individuals (whether they work for an organisation or not) wearing Glass.

          1. Tom 38 Silver badge

            No not at all. Individuals work for an organisations.Individuals (working for an organisation) recording in public aren't covered by that code of practice (not law).

            Individuals acting for the benefit of an organisation are not individuals, they are agents of that organisation.

            One of the clues is in the initialism "CCTV" - it means Closed-Circuit Television. This code is not for individuals (whether they work for an organisation or not) wearing Glass.

            lolwut?

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "Individuals acting for the benefit of an organisation are not individuals, they are agents of that organisation"

              You are seriously out of your mind, organisations are not the Borg, you can be an individual person and still work for an organisation, both in law and in Real Life.

              Hmm topical example, you know maybe some well-known journalist being taken to court for phone hacking maybe? Yes, that's right an individual being prosecuted for breaking the law, not the organisation or the guy at the top of the organisation, or the board but the individual person. You can't absolve responsibilities as an individual even if you happen to work for an organisation.

      3. RyokuMas
        Paris Hilton

        "Do people even realise how many times you are captured on video every single day if you live in a city?"

        I don't recall CCTV images ever being sent to a central datacenter and pulled apart, analysed and profiled for the purpose of pitching adverts at people.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "This is false, people do not need to adhere to the "regulator's CCTV code of practice" at all. It's a code of practice (not law) and it doesn't even apply to individuals recording in public."

        AND, the only organisation who can enforce are the ICO, who usually don't do anything even in the most flagrant cases.

        FWIW, anything catching illegal, misconduct or anythign else falls under the general exemption of "evidence gathering"

    3. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      But all of this is possible with current mobile devices, tablets, phones and digital cameras. It was the case before digital cameras, it's just the speed and dissemination is now much faster.

      It has been the case for years, and still is: If you are in a public space, anybody may take a photograph of you - you have no expectations or rights of privacy. In general terms these pictures may be used for any purpose that doesn't unjustly misrepresent the person or doesn't imply consent or specific endorsement for any particular goods or services. For example, a picture of you in a crowd, on a bus or train, is representative of a general situation whereas a picture of you standing next to a specific item or service could imply your endorsement and therefore cannot be used without your specific permission.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "If you are in a public space, anybody may take a photograph of you - you have no expectations or rights of privacy."

        And making a fuss about it has a Streisand effect.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "it's not hard to imagine surreptitiously catching people off guard becoming an urban sport."

      Like my camera catching a nurse taking a swing at a patient. Which was subsenquently denied by the nurse and her employer, to a large dose of "oh shit" when the video was produced.

  6. Joe Harrison

    can we stop saying glasshole yet

    Every time there is a new personal technology we feel this deep urge to take the p out of early adopters. Like analog mobile phones, bluetooth headsets, and now smart specs. Then once we get to a critical mass of users suddenly it's all perfectly acceptable. Can you imagine in 2014 laughing hysterically about"some moron" pulling out a mobile phone well that's what used to happen in the 1990s.

    Ten quid will get you an unobtrusive clip-on camcorder about the size of the typical USB flash memory stick. How is that any worse than special glasses.

    1. VinceH

      Re: can we stop saying glasshole yet

      No.

      NEXT!

    2. Anonymous Blowhard

      Re: can we stop saying glasshole yet

      Shouldn't it be "Glasshole" with a capital G?

    3. Jamie Jones Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: can we stop saying glasshole yet

      " Every time there is a new personal technology we feel this deep urge to take the p out of early adopters."

      You must be new here!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: can we stop saying glasshole yet

      Don't forget you're reading the blog where a couple of years ago the iPad and later tablets were dismissed as useless gadgets that would never pick up (a "solution looking for a problem")...

    5. GrumpyOldMan

      Re: can we stop saying glasshole yet

      NO. We can't. Tough.

      Other cameras? Well, mostly because they are not manufactured by a giant megalomaniac monolithic US corporation with a history of privacy abuse and ignoring privacy laws, and also running said corporation's dodgy OS. Don't forget, they are about to hand your private email to a host of developers through the API so they can spam you ligitimately - and you didn't even ask them to. How long before they take away the privacy completely on that one? And Glass will be in the firing line for opening the API. How long before developers can see what you see? Shops will pay for that - they can see what products you look at as if they were you. Already doing something like that with manequins with cameras in their eyes hooked up to facial recognition that track you around fashion shops in Milan and can listen in to your conversations. Theres a Reg article on that from around a year ago.

      All your videos are blong to us. Mwahahahaaa!

  7. Crisp

    What does Andrew Paterson think Glass does?

    Am I going to start having to worry about the Data Protection Act when I'm using my Android phone too?

    1. PJI

      Re: What does Andrew Paterson think Glass does?

      >>Am I going to start having to worry about the Data Protection Act when I'm using my Android phone too?

      Depends on under what circumstances you are using it. Recording conversations without consent is already dodgy under some circumstances. Even photographs can be troublesome, e.g. over someone's garden gate, other peoples' children, women sunbathing. You may have noticed that many employers are very funny about recordings and photography, even of the pot plants at work with your mobile telephone camera.

      Anyway, sheer respect for other people should tell you that randomly collecting anything about them without their agreement and knowledge is at least impolite and at worst prurient voyeurism and inflicting your valuation of their privacy and discretion on others.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: What does Andrew Paterson think Glass does?

        Strangely enough in the US, only one person in a conversation needs to be aware that it's being recorded. I think it was written this way to outlaw illegal wire taps (except in the case of permission from a secret court with no accountability) by third parties. Anything that you can photograph from a publicly accessible place is fair game. If you are on your own private property, you can take pictures of anything that can see from it. That can include women sunbathing, kids, pets or over a garden fence if the fence is easily seen over without using a ladder or stepping stool. There was a case in New York where a photographer was taking pictures of people in the high rise across the street and selling limited edition prints. The people were furious when they found out, but the judge ruled that it was ok. The judge stated "if they wanted privacy, they could have closed the blinds." A embarrassing look into the quality of judges in the US.

        My concern with Glass is that if there is a unquestioned universal acceptance without limitations, lots of bad things can happen. Would you want to hand your credit card and ID to a clerk wearing Glass? Would you be comfortable if the man at the next urinal was recording? Somebody using a phone or dedicated camera to take pictures/video is pretty obvious. It also takes more effort to get the device out and take the images which leaves a few seconds for both brain cells to consider if it's proper.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: What does Andrew Paterson think Glass does?

        "You may have noticed that many employers are very funny about recordings and photography, even of the pot plants at work with your mobile telephone camera."

        The only recourse they have is to ask you to stop recoirding or leave the premises. If you're an employee they can sanction yuou via your job but noone has the right to physically take the camera from you (except in certain legally defined national security areas) without risking an assault charge.

        Ditto if they attempt to force you to stop filming.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The ICO

    It's becoming increasingly difficult to take the ICO seriously. They're not doing their job. This bloke has had the same issues that I've had.

    http://revk.www.me.uk/

  9. Scroticus Canis
    Meh

    " a fairly lousy surveillance device" - Meh!

    " a fairly lousy surveillance device" - FTFY.

  10. SkepticScott

    There are Benefits

    I'm a law student, I carry dozens of Legal publications, books, case law etc on my smart phone and listen to them through earphones. Of course the phone has a camera, twice in 10 years I have taken pictures or video of someone other than my family, once a road rage incident, once the scene of a traffic collision. I can't see why wearing Google Glass would suddenly spur me on to taking pictures of strangers which I would not normally do with my phone or camera.

    The benefits of Google glass for me as a student are huge, the ability to be able to pull up legislation, case law, and citations without the need for my computer would be great. With my tutors permission, I could record lectures and seminars, I already do audio recordings, video would be so much more engaging in playback.

    Perhaps one of the biggest benefits though is that I require vary focal prescription glasses, which cost a lot of money, I have a terrible habit of losing my glasses. With Google Glass I imagine I could ask my phone, where are my glasses? To which no doubt, 9 x out of 10 the reply would be; on your head idiot!

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