Before readers start throwing brickbats at me, understand that I am no fan of the Google Glass project. I can see the merits of having small head-mounted cameras stream films of particularly interesting or important events, particularly if you need to keep your hands free. But I’m skeptical of having a computer display information in the your field of vision while someone is ambulatory. Humans have limited cognitive processing abilities, and smart phones are already pushing people beyond their limits, as people get into foot or street accidents when trying to interact with their device while in motion. Google Glass will make it more tempting to push the limits of multi-tasking and accidents are certain to result.
But the big source of ire and concern is the invasion of privacy. Cell phones are commonplace, but even so, most people (unless they live in an areas covered by CCTV like Central London) don’t worry about having their actions recorded outside their home. If Google succeeds in making Google Glass popular, that last bit of privacy goes out the window.
But yesterday, I put up posts that show that in some parts of the country, the police are acting like more like highwaymen rather than protectors of ordinary citizens. States that allow local law enforcement offices to retain the proceeds of civil forfeitures start treating them as a major revenue generator. And separately, we’ve also seen the rise in militarized police tactics and tinpot tyranny. Reader Skeptic linked to this clip as an example of how aggressive the police are despite the widespread use of cellphone recordings
But I wonder if this was actually a different sort of example: that the cop held off from carrying out her threat because she could see or suspected she was being videoed. And police searches can be plenty abusive.
Now Russia has seen the rise of the dash-cam and per Vice, notice the reasons (emphasis mine):
In Russia, the highways are icy, the drivers are drunk, the police like to extort motorists at random, insurance companies will cheat you whenever possible (sound familiar?), and road rage is, well, all the rage. As a result, drivers buy dashboard cameras—or dash cams—to record their traffic accidents and altercations, providing undeniable proof for the courts or their insurance company. At the very least, having a dash cam lowers your insurance rates. At the very most, it can save you a lot of money in an accident or a lawsuit.
Here, I hardly drive, and when I do, it’s either in Maine (where the worst the cops do is pull over tourists to lecture them about not driving like locals and hand out speeding tickets like candy) or in really tame suburbs (where if you look like you are from there or visiting someone who lives there, again you won’t get rough handling). But I started thinking yesterday, “Gee if I had to rent a car in one of those states like Georgia or Virginia or Texas where some police departments will take property from drivers, what would I do?” A car cam, aimed more at the driver’s window and only partly at the road in front of the driver, seemed like the answer. And then I realized Google Glass would do just that, and could also stream it, so even if the angry police dude seized or broke the glasses, the recording up to that point would have been uploaded. And if it is illegal to drive wearing Google Glass, which is what I’d expect, I’m sure a clever entrepreneur will come up with a little ceiling mount so your glasses can record your drive (or whatever view you’d want) so the driver is not distracted.
In other words, promoting Google Glass as the affluenza’s protection against overly aggressive cops might be a winning sell. And perversely, if you hate the idea of Google Glass, you should also talk up the idea, since having the police realize that Google Glass can create recordings they can’t undo (where as now they can try to seize and erase or damage cell phones), might be enough for the authorities to insist on limits to what Google Glass can do that would severely undermine the project.
And if you are bothered that Google Glass would protect only the wealthy, think twice. How about just a cheap car ceiling mounted imitation on the passenger side? A cop interrogating someone from the driver side won’t be close enough get all that good a look. If this idea were to take hold, it’s the fear of being recorded that would curb police conduct. A credible fake would do.
I suspect this use is too remote from what Google intended to go anywhere. But I have to tell you, if I were renting a car in any of the states with plundering police, I’d also rent a modified dash cam before I’d rent a GPS. As awful as this situation is, there’s an opportunity for an entrepreneur who can figure out a low-cost way to help people protect themselves against tinpot tyranny. Ideas?