The Google Glass Privacy Paradox

The most ironic thing about the ranting paranoia of those who perceive Google Glass as some sort of surreptitious surveillance device is the fact that the Glass Explorer experience is almost diametrically opposed to that. Glass Explorers quickly find that no matter where they go, they’re often unexpectedly thrust into a spotlight, as the excitement surrounding the device leads to the kinds of interactions that were previously solely in the realm of celebrity. A simple trip to the grocery store can quickly become an impromptu demo for several strangers perfectly fine with invading your privacy in order to experience the device (and often leading to an unexpectedly early low battery dying). When it comes to privacy, the people who have been most impacted are the Glass Explorers themselves.

That’s why when browsing the #throughglass hashtag on Google+, we frequently see this:


Don’t get me wrong, Explorers aren’t complaining; rather the contrary. Being an ambassador for the device is part of what we signed up for, and the attention, in general, is welcome and exciting. It’s simply mind-blowing how often the people who loudly proclaim Glass a massive privacy invasion forget all social civilities when interacting with Glass Explorers. I’ve dubbed this the Glass Privacy Paradox; while declaring that you’re simply wearing the device is an invasion of their privacy, they’re quick to casually invade yours.

I thought the above image was hilarious when I first saw it; a smart poke at privacy concerns using the old Reddit switcharoo. However, the more I thought about it, the more I think this really accurately depicts the reality of Glass Privacy concerns: a cell phone user is faking a selfie while surreptitiously snapping a shot of an unaware Explorer clearly practicing good Glass etiquette.

Contrast that with the shots of “Google Glass in the wild”, and you see a frequently bemused but understanding Explorer patiently posing (or at least tolerating) being photographed:

While a maker culture with supporting etiquette is rapidly building around Glass users, the public at large has a long way to go before Glass passes the point of being such a novelty that all rules of social civility go out the window when a Glass Explorer wears the device in public. With an unexpected 15 minutes of spotlight accompanying our participation in the beta, it’s not the masses that need to be extra prepared for privacy concerns. It’s Glass users themselves.