Google Glass isn’t even a product released for public consumption yet and already people are up in arms about its effect on personal privacy. A new survey of around 4,000 UK residents conducted by Rackspace and Goldsmiths at the University of London has found that 20 percent of respondents believe Google Glass should be banned outright, while 61 percent think Glass and other wearable camera devices should at least be regulated.
The survey mirrors some early knee-jerk reactions to Google Glass, namely the banning of its use in some bars and casinos. Google itself has already forbidden facial recognition apps on the platform, to make it so that you couldn’t use the thing for stalkery or more sinister purposes, and for a whole host of other sensible reasons. Glass seems to strike many as a little too much like an all-seeing eye, and that’s not a good look when you’re already the product of a company people have privacy qualms about. Plus, in a recent interview Rackspace employee and early Glass evangelist Robert Scoble had trouble convincing BBC’s Jeremy Paxman that “thing on [his] head” could provide any possible advantage.
The idea that someone has a camera on their face that could take videos or snap photos relatively surreptitiously is understandably going to give folks pause. And the idea that it’s a way for Google to gather even more information not only about its users, but about potentially everything they see, say and hear, is bound to ruffle the feathers of those who value their personal privacy. But in truth, Glass likely doesn’t encroach too much further on the average person’s privacy than your typical smartphone, especially given the rate at which that tech is progressing.
The flipside of the survey also reflects a growing interest in wearable tech in general, however. It found that an estimated 8 million British citizens are already using wearable devices, and that 16 million plan on coming onboard with the trend as it starts to become more common. Seventy-one percent of those who wear the devices feel they have benefitted from them in some way, and 55 percent are using them for health and wellness purposes.
Perhaps most interestingly, there’s a strong contingent of people who’d be willing to share data gathered from wearables with third parties, given the right incentive. Twenty-five percent would offer up data to third parties in exchange for health insurance benefits and other incentives, while 35 percent would be willing to strap on a device that shares data with Britain’s National Health Service, which is its publicly-funded health care system. Wearables could increase the quality of care, keep patient records more accurate and up-to-date, and provide early warning of looming health problems.
The takeaway is that users are wary of wearable tech, but also willing to put aside their fears in the face of material benefit. Glass could face a lot of FUD before, during and after it launches, but people also clearly see the potential, too.
Additional reporting by Natasha Lomas