The Daily Show mocks Google Glass but privacy concerns are real

Seemingly everyone likes to ridicule Glass wearers, even "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." But the privacy issues brought up on a recent segment are real.

Jason Jones tests out a DIY version of Google Glass
The Daily Show screenshot by Teena Hammond/TechRepublic

There's such a social stigma to wearing Google Glass that even "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" had to ridicule those who wear them in public. But the privacy concerns brought up on the show are real.

In the segment, Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones interviewed six advocates of Glass, each of whom have been denied service at bars and other places for wearing Glass in public. Jones did a hysterical take on the topic, deriding all the key points of Glass and openly making fun of those who wear them. Those interviewed included Sarah Slocum, who made national news after her infamous fight over the pair of Glass she was wearing in a San Francisco bar. The incident was labeled by techies as a "hate crime" against techies.

But as Jones pointed out, "discrimination" is not really the correct label for someone who could choose to remove their pair of Glass and go unnoticed in a crowd.

To mock those who wear Glass, Jones said that he couldn't afford Glass for $1,500 so he built his own version. He walked around San Francisco wearing a DIY version of Glass that was nothing more than a disposable camera and smartphone taped to a pair of glasses and strapped to his head.

"And since when can't a grown man walk into a child's playground with a secret camera on his face," Jones said, in mockery, as he was run out of a park wearing his makeshift gear.

Yes, the segment is funny, as Jones pokes fun at these modern-day Magellan wannabes. But there is some validity to the points made by those who have been run out of bars and restaurants for wearing Glass. However, not in the way that they would like. Instead, it brings to light the valid concerns that public privacy - which is, admittedly, almost an oxymoron - is quickly turning into something of the past. No longer can a couple argue in a restaurant and not expect it to be broadcast over YouTube. The days of a guy walking his cat on a leash, and not ending up as a meme, are long gone.

There will be more people wearing Glass or augmented reality (AR) glasses in the near future. And that brings up the question about what are the limits of personal privacy in public settings and what can people expect in the way of privacy if wearing Glass becomes mainstream.

Overall, the expectation is that Glass and other AR glasses will become less obvious, and that will ease the public's worries about privacy.

Dan Ledger, principal at Endeavour Partners, said, "The technology in AR glasses will begin to disappear into the frames of normal looking eyewear over the next five or so years and as this happens a few things are going to happen. More people are going to feel comfortable wearing them, and it's going to become more difficult to tell when people have these capabilities. As with several other technologies that are encroaching on our privacy, this is one that people will eventually come to live with, in a similar manner that we came to accept the use of such capabilities on the mobile devices we carry in our hands."

Privacy expectations have been dying for several years as younger generations become more comfortable sharing personal information with less expectation that it will remain private, said Rich Tehrani, CEO of TMC.

"People are sharing more and we are increasingly living in a surveillance state where law enforcement places multiple cameras in virtually all public places of importance. And when that isn't happening, our calls are tapped and our emails are read via other government agencies. Privacy will continue to die and Google Glass is just one technology which is enabling this trend.

"Having said all this I believe locker rooms and bathrooms are places where society will be uncomfortable with these devices being used. Over time, we can expect people to be using multiple recording devices as they eat at restaurants, sit in class, go to the park, etc.," Tehrani said.

But back to The Daily Show. The Glass wearers on the show were busy trying to justify their use of the wearable device by self-righteously explaining it saves them from looking at their phone, and therefore being rude. Jones simply asked them, "Do you guys hear yourselves when you talk?"


Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. With a background in fashion writing at People and W magazines and WWD, she ties together the style and substance of tech.

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