When glass eyes can see

By Dr Guy Bunker. 

Well it might have escaped your attention, but there is a new product that is being tested in beta at the moment and it’s called Google Glass or ‘smart glasses’ if you want to be more generic. From a techie perspective, it’s very cool – and I would like one today. However, it has been causing ripples across organizations and even whole countries. There was a report this week where privacy officials from seven nations, yes nations, not companies got together to discuss the privacy implications of the new technology.

What is Google Glass…

In a nut shell, it is a wearable computer with a camera and a screen and information can be recorded by the camera, while the screen displays whatever you want it to. Think science fiction film and you are basically there. Iron Man’s super hi-tech visual display – but you don’t look daft in an oversized helmet. Like I said, from a techie perspective – very cool.

So, where does privacy come in, and why do people care – after all we are monitored by cameras on the streets every day! Without labouring the point, this is a wearable device – so those that wear it, do so all the time… no matter where they are. So, if you go to the restroom… enough said. If you are wandering about, it can recognise people and it could then post their whereabouts… If you have a visitor to your company, it could record all that is seen… other people who are there, intellectual property in the form of design documents or whiteboards which happen to be glimpsed. The list goes on… and hence the issues are being raised.

Google is not the only company who is working on this type of technology, you can readily buy other gadgets which record your whole day – and then you can play them back at leisure. (Would be good if it could automatically create edited highlights…)

What should companies and organizations do? In essence, there needs to be an update to security policies regarding devices such as Google Glass and other wearable recording gadgets – in order to protect both information and privacy. Unlike most other corporate security policies, it needs to be prominently displayed on entrances to buildings as well as secured areas – so that visitors as well as employees know what the policy is. This policy needs to be set up and communicated ‘today’, rather than when it becomes a problem. For once, for most companies, there is an opportunity for the security policy to be in place ahead of the technology. Forewarned is forearmed.