A Killer App for Google Glass?

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?

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    1. PunchNRun

      Whether from Google or a successor, that’s coming. Whether you live to see it or not is the only question, barring apocalypse or peak oil. What happens to privacy when everything is recorded by everyone who is present? Perhaps privacy is redefined?

  1. Hugo Stiglitz

    Robert J. Sawyer has foreseen this use in The Neanderthal Parallax trilogy. From Wikipedia:

    “About eight decades before the time of the novels, companion implants were perfected and issued to all barasts. These are comprehensive recording and transmission devices, mounted in the forearm of each person. Their entire life is constantly monitored and sent to their alibi archive, a repository of recordings that are only accessible by their owner, or by the proper authorities when investigating an infraction, and in the latter case only in circumstances relevant to the investigation. Recordings are maintained after death; it is not made clear what the reasoning is for this and under what circumstances and or by whom a deceased person’s archive can be accessed.”


    1. esb

      “…only accessible by their owner…” yea, right.

      “…proper authorities…” OMG

      “…circumstances relevant to the investigation…” given all of the redefinitional gymnastics over at Justice this means simply any and all circumstances.

      Frankly, and I am sorry to have to say this, I have given up. This country is flat out finished.

      Game over, juego fin.

      Bring out the bordeaux. (Latour ’82 if possible)

  2. rdw

    Yves, if Glass is used that way, the law will quickly make it illegal to have an “open” glass in the car. Like the “open container” laws for alcolhol.

    1. jrs

      Can technology be used for subversion? Maybe only if that technology is designed for such subversion? Not google …

  3. Skeptic

    “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?”

    Kudos to NC for demonstrating that the failure of the Regime now affects people’s civil rights directly. There is no more question of where all this is going, we are already there.

    As suggested, this is great entrepreneurial opportunity for someone or some organization to provide us with the personal security and privacy that the Government will not. Firefox, for instance, would be well positioned to benefit.

    At the risk of being repetitive, I have suggested two such products in the past.

    One, is the HAYSTACKER, software that operates in background on your computer or when it is not being used to generate useless data for the SPOOX to collect and pollute their databases. This would operate on the GIGO, Garbage In Garbage Out principle. A database can only tolerate a certain low percentage of pollution before it becomes worthless. This would also make SPOOX data useless for commercial purposes which in turn decreases the drive for more surveillance. If there is no $$$ return, corporations may be reluctant to participate.

    Two, a Profile Skewer, which again would operate in background or when the computer is not in use, to generate information which will skew a user’s internet profile. For instance, visit sites the user would not normally use.

    These two products are similar in nature. They do not to me seem to be very technically daunting. Firefox already has an add on which runs in background and generates false searches thereby in part skewing your profile.

    It seems to me though that the accent is on preventing privacy intrusions when in fact the best strategy may be to give the SPOOX all the data they want, only wrong, useless, unfathomable data. To the new Jobs and Wozniaks, I am ready to buy a HAYSTACKER and a Profile Skewer.

    As far as personal interaction with the police and other enforcers, I would at minimum carry a high quality tape recording device and know the laws about when you are allowed to use it. As pointed out, even the threat of the presence of a true record may be enough to deter abusive treatment.

    1. jrs

      I like those ideas – technology designed to subvert – more likely to be built by hackers and open source types than any corporation though.

    2. jrs

      Also can we pay people for running these apps? Think bitcoin – (hay)stackcoin. But instead of payment for mining uh NOTHING AT ALL, it’s payment for running your computer to subvert the security state.

  4. Brooklin Bridge

    A lot depends on who retrieves and who stores the data. Is it Google? Is it the cloud? Do you even have a choice? Do you seriously think that what actually happened is what is going to be on the video you thought you took?

    Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ya kill me Charlie Brown…

  5. lakewoebegoner

    “the police are acting like more like highwaymen rather than protectors of ordinary citizens. ”

    the root cause for a lot of this is the dismally poor pay offered for patrol officers in much of the country, especially the rural areas.

    You aren’t going to find qualified candidates (college-educated/ex-military) at $30,000/year as those people will gravitate towards better-paying law enforcement agencies.

    You will, however, attract a lot of the “respect my authoritay”/George Zimmerman wannabes.

  6. deeringhthamnus

    I think this cop did a great job of self restraint in the face of these out of down creeps giving her guff. The other side of the story is that marauding thugs pour out of cities looking for trouble in the burbs, like in the movie
    “Clockwork Orange”.


    1. JCC

      Giving her guff? Asking the question, “Am I being detained or am I free to go?” was a legitimate question. Her answer, “You’re free to go.” should have ended it right there.

      She was the one that persued the issue by becaming agressive, cursing, and making other negative statements regarding them being “tatted up”, along with other threats.

      I’ve been in this situation before and ended up aggravated with myself and the police for days because I caved in to these ridiculous spot checks and unreasonable and pointless vehicle searches.

      Good for him. Keep the cameras rolling.

  7. allcoppedout

    Me on a good day I’d guess. I refused to tell the public the time for 6 months after they cancelled our watch allowance and directed them to the Town Hall clock. We have no idea what the charming lady had to go through before this incident or the general tensions of knowing how hard it is to tell the good guys from bad. If I swore at you you’d be arrested – very poor performance on her part to do so and lay herself open to complaint. No one believes chummy once they are charged. He seemed offensive to me first with that ‘am I free to go’ jive.
    One of our local cops stopped me for driving with fog lights on (I didn’t know how to turn them off) and was pretty horrendous. Big deal. When three cops lied and accused me of conspiring to pervert the course of justice I took another view – fortunately they were stupid and are now dumb ex-cops (it took three years).
    Leave the poor girl alone – she’s probably the one who might keep the really vicious ones off your back. It’s prissy public reaction like this that encourages cops to lie in self-defence. They think you just won’t understand the pressures of the job and they are right. Rodney King this wasn’t – and the cops there were never convicted of the obvious beating, only on the civil rights stuff.
    Actually, I was more civil than this specimen of finest after 22 hours on shift, covered in blood and just shot at by the bloke who had stabbed my best mate. How could we convict the lass when we haven’t nicked polite bank clerks who sold us PPI? PC high-horse?

    1. RalphR

      Did you actually watch the video?

      The driver’s tone was never out of line.

      She asked “where are you guys headed” and he was trying (in a neutral tone) to avoid the question by “am I being detained?”. Did you forget Miranda? He doesn’t have to answer her questions EVEN IF ARRESTED. She was overstepping him in continuing to interrogate him and she went batshit when he tried exercising his rights in a pretty mild manner.

      The cop does not have a right to search the car without probable casue (when she insisted she did).

      The driver looked and sounded black and then the cop goes on a rant about him being a gangster (which he disagreed with) and goes on about him being “tatted up” (I think she meant tattooed). She then goes on about how “you people don’t even live here” outside a RENTAL CAR LOT. As in she objects to the basic premise of renting a car and wants the city/areas to be a walled enclave for the (presumably white) locals like her.

      And you defend this?

  8. barrisj

    For a “real-time” test-drive of Google Glass, check out the piece in the recent NYer by Gary Shteyngart, “OK. Glass.”:


    Walking down a busy Manhattan street videotaping everyone encountered seemed to fascinate those “on-camera”, with few reservations about “privacy violations”. Perhaps we should recast the notion of “Fifteen minutes of fame” as “all fame all the time”.

  9. Pelham

    Seems the technology is available so you could get much the same protective functionality from a similar head-mounted device that simply records and uploads to the Internet without the visual distraction and other hoo-haw mind-shrinking capabilities associated with Google Glass.

  10. Elliot

    “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?”

    This is an astute idea. Dash cams, and even fake ones make sense –retail stores make use of the same idea to deter theft.–

    I have to remind myself more and more often that we are beyond banana republic now, in failed-state territory. We cannot rely on good intentions by the state, but gaming their bad instincts is something we can do.

  11. allcoppedout

    Of course, cops could have their own ‘glass’ – indeed there are such helmet cameras on trial. Getting chummy on camera tends to lead to guilty pleas saving £40K per routine drugs bust. The problem with such equipment is its failure to switch off when cops behave badly as in shooting innocent Brazilians. If such went directly to cloud it might have the deterrent effect we desire. We might extend this to social workers and even bank sales transactions,board-room meetings and trading floors. Such a paperless, human testimony-free society grows on me by the minute …

  12. Conscience of a Conservative

    In NY and I suspect elsewhere it is not uncommon to see cyclists riding with video cameras on their helmets. It’s proved useful for some with regard to accidents and other run-ins. This is just another variation.

  13. Joe Rebholz

    This may be the beginning of the counterrevolution to the surveillance state. Or the “Sousveillance” state mentioned above. Dash cams could be made with high enough resolution and computing power to record and save (or transmit to a home computer) license plates (and other words) it sees. And glass type things could record all of our business and other activities. Etc. But more importantly, by Moore’s law, the computing power available to individuals will increase to the extent that what the NSA does now will be able to be done by small groups of individuals or a single individual. Information is increasing exponentially. And information leaks always. There will be no privacy.

  14. Crazy Horse

    Actually a car equipped with James Bond counter measures would be far more effective than a dash cam or Google/Orwell eyeglasses. What good does it do to record police extortion when the legal system only works to protect the criminals in the 1% who can afford to buy the outcomes they desire?

  15. Sundog

    What’s wanted here is a device that can function as a smart phone wrt recording audio, video, timestamp, location. But it must not depend on cloud compute nor have backdoor shutdown potential (those rules out smart phones).

    At this moment I’d build on GoPro to run an encrypted stream to a dedicated storage device at my home and copies (for fee) to a site in a country with a long-term viable balance of trade that ain’t all that geopolitically in play.

  16. Emma

    Google Glass is here to stay.
    The video-taping of OWS members exercising their constitutional right to assemble and remain afloat in the face of a blistering wave of police had little impact on altering behavior. It only proved that people and their life-boats can easily be removed and replaced with an invincible flotilla with unlimited power.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I disagree. The pepper spraying of women who’d already been kettled in NYC produced a big outcry versus the cops and a lot of sympathy for OWS. In fact, the repeated police heavy-handedness, captured on video, helped the movement a lot. And when they cracked down in NYC, the cops made a huge point of keeping reporters well away and seizing cell phones. OWS was a great test case of the value of getting the police on video.

      1. Emma

        How can you get the Police on video if as you say “the cops made a huge point of keeping reporters well away and seizing cell phones”?

  17. GRP

    Privacy in a public place is an oxymoron. However, until recently, the only recordings of one’s actions in a public place were in the memory of the people around. Technology has changed that and there is really no going back. But if people think the possibility of a recording is going to deter people from engaging in illegal actions in public or deter law enforcement officials from abusing their power, they will be sorely disappointed. Recent abuses by LEOs are not an aberrant behaviour that can be expected to be corrected by a recording that can be used to shame the person or cause internal corrective processes to kick in. They are the result of a complete shift in the expectations of and from LEOs by a majority. There is a premise that is gaining wide public acceptance, that anyone who attracts the attention of an LEO is guilty until the LEO is satisfied otherwise. Under that premise unless the victim of an LEO abuse can prove that the LEO had no cause whatsoever to be suspicious of the victim, the LEO is right. Google Glass and Dash Cams are not going to help anyone change that premise.

  18. Zach Wry

    This post is premised on google glass getting into the hands of (or onto the face of) poor people which of course is not possible as it is not a consumer product. For all the articles and public discourse on google glass already in our culture it is crazy-making that it’s not on any social level “available”. This is one offensive step past expensive status symbol where anyone with the cash can own one. Much like finding a high-paying job if you don’t already have one (Larry Summers), thinking about google glass requires worship of a deus ex machina or else another heretically inclined superstition to rationalize it relevance. In short, google glass are the divine right version of consumer products and people should poke a whole in these emperors new clothes by calling them google glasses for that is what they are.

  19. Gold Price

    While the first arrest may not have been groundbreaking, many believe Google Glass will lead to a lot more events being captured on film – in part because Glass looks just like sunglasses and wouldn’t appear to have recording capabilities.

  20. Jason Boxman

    Neat idea. For protests the counter will likely be communications jamming. And around we go.

  21. Quatrain Gleam

    This camera already exists. It’s called the Looxcie camera. http://www.looxcie.com You turn it on and it streams to the cloud. With the mounting options you can mount it on anything you want.

  22. Lori

    The right wingers are experimenting with something they call “Voluntero.” It’s probably not without merit.

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