Digi Domi

Sharing my passion for technology and learning.

A future of eye-gouging

on March 15, 2013

Firstly let me apologise for the recent spate of posts, I know it is bad form for a blogger to post so frequently if they can’t keep it up, and I do not mean to overload my readers with posts, but this is a reactionary piece and so it would loose impact if I waited.

Thanks to a tweet from a former colleague this article from The Inquirer* about a Seattle bar pre-emptively banning Google Glass from its premisses, on the grounds of privacy, was brought to my attention. I don’t want to go into whether that is right or wrong, although there are genuine concerns, exemplified in this YouTube parody: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UjcqCx1Bvg

What I want to talk about is how such concerns could be dealt with in the future.

There is genuine reason for a company to be concerned about people taking photographs or videos using something like Google Glass, particularly in establishments that currently do not permit recording equipment of any kind (although there is a whole other set of problems with the fact they allow smart phones, which have this capability but you can’t realistically have a rule that says ‘no phone allowed’ for a nightclub, stadium or similar social venue). Places such as strip clubs certainly have privacy, security and commercial reasons to prevent customers from recording their employees at work. At the moment that would be relatively easy to enforce, as the design of Google Glass is distinctive. Similarly many places enforce dress codes, and  a ban on Google Glass just becomes an extension of that, with a privacy clause as well.

But what about the future? Undoubtedly either Google, or another company that releases a similar product will eventually make such devices look more and more like regular glasses. At this time how do you enforce a ban? If you ban anyone wearing glasses you are not only going to create outrage, you will also attract lawsuits for discrimination, and there is a good chance you’ll loose. So you have to allow people who need glasses for sight into your venue, in this case do you give everyone entering an eye test? Or perhaps people just have to carry around a card or wear medic alert jewellery, certified by an optician, that states they need glasses for sight. In that case do you create an underground world of counterfeit medic alert jewellery or sight cards? Perhaps worse people deliberately start gouging, or in some other way attempt to damage, their eyes in order to require glasses. It becomes an almost impossible area to fairly enforce. Even more so when, as I predict, this technology is eventually condensed into a contact lens. Then it is impossible to tell who is using it and who is not.

The only hope at the moment is that the devices are voice command driven, and so if one of your employees or a customer notices and reports someone repeatedly saying ‘take a picture’ or ‘record video’ then you can eject them from the venue. Again that isn’t easy to police (in large and/ or noisy venues you might not be able to hear clearly) and only works as long as the systems are voice command driven. If they become driven by eye movement based commands or brain waves (sounds futuristic, but I give it a maximum of 20 years) then game over for enforcing any sort of policy without simultaneously preaching civil liberties and human rights.

ADDITION: It suddenly occurred to me, forget commercial venues, what about education? How do you stop students cheating by Googling something in an exam when such devices can’t be told apart from glasses for sight? Perhaps at this stage we have to consider what it is we are testing, and whether fact based knowledge is as relevant in such a society and in fact perhaps we need to test learning skills, such as critical reflection instead.

*Link to Inquirer article http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2253751/google-glass-is-banned-in-seattle-bar-months-before-launch

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One response to “A future of eye-gouging

  1. Vera Mogul says:

    Good question. Perhaps move away from assessment which rewards students for reproducing bare facts and towards highly situated assessment of what students *do* with what they know. Stop testing memory and instead assess understanding, insight, &tc. Otherwise the only solutions are either technical Google Glass detection equipment or viva…

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