Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Google Glass: Here's Looking at You[r] Kid

"I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time."  
- Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google 

Several days ago, I detailed the emergent technology Google Glass and pondered the ethical repercussions that arise from a future of widespread dependence on the device. I strongly suggest you read that entry prior to this installment. See: Google Glass: Futuristic... and Freaky 

While I've made the case that Google's invention may inadvertently force an upgrade on the human race that downgrades intellect, let it be known that I am in no way a crazy conspiracy theorist. I do not mistake Google's ambition for evil (even if their mantra does echo the mad mission of Dr. Who villain Cybus prior to the creation of the Cybermen.) If anything Google is naive, underestimating the power of its own creation. For with all power comes perversion... and Google cannot stop the nefarious from misusing their technology.

"Google Glass, ASSIMILATE!"

At the risk of putting ideas in the heads of the deviant, I won't bring up some of the extremely disturbing potential uses for the device that crossed my mind... but I will pose some pretty heavy scenarios so those of you with anxiety about these sorts of things should probably give this blog entry a pass. That said, I'd like you to do your best to read on and consider everything I say is merely a possibility. Still... they are all quite possible.

Privacy has been the bane of the big G's existence since the company's foundation-- once called "Google's Kryptonite" by a Microsoft exec. Google is no stranger in regards to controversy with their privacy policies. Here's another famous quote from the head of Google's founding triumvirate, Eric Schmidt: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." This statement is highly indicative of Google's stance on privacy. Google is all about speed, efficiency and delivering a service that is profitable for both itself and the consumer. Information is power, and on that principal Google is the most powerful company in the world. Google doesn't care much for privacy on the internet, dreaming of an internet full of real faces and real names. Google believes that what you do within the realm of cyberspace shouldn't be veiled from the public eye, and I'm inclined to agree. The problem is that Google is now entering the sacred realm of the real world with that philosophy-- and that gives me severe pause.

While the company's own applications will certainly step on a few toes with Google Glass-- unauthorized and 3rd party applications are the ones users truly have to be wary about. The Glass will no doubt be running on Android. (Bare with me here as things will start to sound geeky for a bit) Google's programming code happens to be open source, meaning virtually anyone with basic programming skills can jail break (hack and modify) the device. What it also means is that custom applications and programs can be made for the device. Worms, Trojans, viruses... you can be sure all our old friends will find their way to the device once the tech has been on the market long enough.

What does this all mean? You're wearing a device that tracks your location and seamlessly records everything you do and see. Open one wrong e-mail... click one wrong link. Bang. You're now a walking webcam for a hacker. They are in your eyes. "Who cares, what could they really do?" Well, steal your ATM Code for starters. Any sort of personal code or information you input while wearing your compromised Google Glass is seen by them. The combination to your safe... Your child's school and where you drop them off...  Your kitchen calender showing when you're going to be on vacation... Your secret activities...

This is the danger of a 4G internet uplinked eye-camera, and if you think such a scenario is outlandish-- you're in for a world of shock about the amount of power held by the hacking community. Google's coders will need to be constantly working around the clock to stop this type of malware from popping up, otherwise they're simply leasing our eyes to hackers. Who's to say they won't literally lease the information recorded from your eyes though? Google could potentially sell the information to advertisers or the government by cleverly sneaking in some lengthy privacy legal waver that one must agree to in order to use Google Glass. Really, the only way to fight it is to be vigilant with what you allow your Google Glass to see.

Passerby? Or passing spy...
Alas, the greatest threat to privacy comes from neither Google's invasive policies nor malicious programmers. The greatest danger is the power of Google Glass itself. You must look out for the other cars on the road. Stalking is ever easier with the Glass... Taking family videos is a cute idea, but what if someone else is taking those videos of your family without you knowing? How do we know the Glass wearing stranger on the street isn't recording a video of us as we pass? Forget a hacker recording a PIN # from our eyes, all a Glass wearer has to do is look over our shoulder for a moment and hit record. It's extremely unnerving to have millions of cameras looking at you at all times-- especially since they can instantly upload what they see to the internet a moment's notice.

I don't have to go into detail as to why this is bad... I love Google. Honestly, I do. I think without Google, the internet would be no where near as advanced and organized as it is today... But equipping everyday people with a smart spy camera? That's a horrendous idea. I understand what they are trying to do... but the boundaries have been overstepped. Eric Schmidt, you dream of an augmented humanity... but you fail to realize you're augmenting evil as well. You don't believe that society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time... and I don't believe you do either. 

I suppose only time will tell, but if society is thinking what I'm thinking... Google Glass will be a hard sell.

- B