Will Google's Augmented Reality Glasses Facilitate an All-Seeing Surveillance State?


Ever wanted to wear the Internet on your face? With a nifty pair of Google Glasses, now in an early prototype phase, you may soon be able to. Here's the demo video released yesterday by Project Glass at Google[x], the company's bleeding edge innovation lab: 

Neat, right? And potentially as revolutionary as Internet-enabled mobile phones and tablets.

But it's also slightly scary for anyone concerned about the prying eyes of government surveillance. Forbes' Kashmir Hill predicts that when we're all recording everything all the time, we'll all become tools of the state:

If we all start wearing glasses with cameras, the process of seeing and recording will become that much easier and possibly continual. I could imagine a feature — which life loggers and quantified selfers would love — that would allow you to record and save everything. Or, if you prefer not to accumulate that much private data about yourself, you could set your camera to continually record (and consistently erase) chunks of time — it could be five minutes, fifteen minutes, an hour, or a day, depending on your privacy settings. If something awesome (or horrible) happens that you want to save, you could instruct your Glasses to permanently store that file or upload it to your YouTube account. No more "Whoops, I didn't get my smartphone out in time to record that!"

Imagine how helpful this could be for reporting crimes. If you witnessed a boy being attacked in your yard, or a hit and run, or a robbery, you could immediately upload that file to police databases. Inevitably, we would all become watchmen, critical parts of the surveillance society. Alternately, law enforcement could use cell location tracking to figure out who was in a certain area at a certain time and get a warrant (or subpoena) for access to their vision logs.

On the other hand, this could also complicate laws that make it a crime to take videos and photos of cops

NEXT: Oaksterdam Founder, Prop. 19 Funder, Driven Out of His Peaceful, Productive Business by Government

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. You already have a cellphone right?

    1. Eeeek! Burn the witch-thing! Plasticky things are the Devil’s work!

      Eventually they’re going to decide if you don’t have a cell on you, you don’t want to be tracked, so you’re up to no good.

    2. Nope. Don’t need one. Don’t want one. If I’m out, I’m out.

  2. The upside of eliminating faulty eyewitness testimony is pretty significant too. Also, if everything is recorded, cops have a harder time perjuring themselves. So it is not as clear as the post makes it out to be.

    1. Brin wrote a nonfiction book called The Transparent Society, which highlighted some of the advantages to things like this for regular folk.

  3. I’m developing the Libertate Disruptor, which will prevent anyone from using this within twenty feet of a user. Along with the Libertate Personal Cloaking Device, freedom will be preserved.

    1. By which you mean, of course, you will walk around naked so people avert their gaze.

      1. Either it works, or people are too embarrassed to tell me it works. Either way, I win.

        1. Have you considered giving them out to women for free? You know, to get word-of-mouth going.

    2. Funny, but I’ve been thinking of something like this… just put some bright IR LEDs on the brim of a baseball hat. You’ll appear as a bright spot on most CCDs.

      1. Already been done:…..y-cameras/

        1. I LOVE IT! Ahem – I love it! I’m going to have to get me one of thise and see how long it takes the “security personnel” (receptionists in cop-ish uniforms) at work to figure it out! Too funny.

          1. Sorry, “one of those.” I got excited…

        2. That is beautiful.

        3. Awesome.

        4. yeah that is cool!

    3. I’m developing the CE Seeing Eye Discount Disruptor. Looks a lot like a can of black spray paint.

  4. We’re are in the process of being assimilated.

    Resistance is futile.

  5. We’re are in the process of being assimilated.

    Resistance is futile.

    1. Yes resistance against the squirrels is clearly futile.

  6. When step closer to making SR a reality.

  7. Here’s a link to the article, if anyone wants it:…..inevitable

    And I don’t really see the problem, unless you are continuously recording and uploading info. If the info is initially stored on local solid state media and you could pick and choose what to upload later it doesn’t really become any more offensive than a cell phone, I think, but with the benefits of being able to catch cops without them really having much recourse save “arrest someone for wearing glasses”.

  8. Didn’t Snow Crash convince these people that they would look like total tards walking around in those things? CIC freelancer or not.

    1. What was the Vinge book on augmented reality? Rainbow something?

      1. Rainbow’s End.

        1. Rainbows End.

          No apostraphe. Big difference.

          1. Rainbow Brite pops her pooper cherry in Rainbow’s End.

            1. Rainbow Brite pops her pooper cherry in Rainbow’s End.

              Holy shit! That’s so fuckin’ Zen, bro.

              1. [insert STEVE SMITH spoof here]

    2. I got exactly 1 chapter into snow crash before I hurled it across the room. The economic ignorance that went into the book hurt my brain too much. Never Again.

      1. ???

        The pizza delivery chapter? Im calling BS. That is a great bit.

      2. I liked Snowcrash, but I had the same reaction as you about 3 pages into Diamond Age.

    3. The technology to put this on contact lenses already exists.

      Besides, then all my wife will needs are the tattoos, and our family’s entrance into the coming cyberpunk future is complete.

      1. That looks totally ridiculous. Cyperpunk is one of those things I just don’t “get”. I mean, I don’t even like Cory Doctorow.

        1. Cyperpunk was just the conscious commodification of rebellion as fashion movement, just like punk rock, just with SFnal trappings. Unlike punk rock, most of the consumers were in on the joke that the producers were playing.

          Produced some good books though, and broke the back of the increasingly stale and PC futures that 70s SF was presenting, much of it reading like a women’s studies thesis at a state college.

        2. Geez, I’m not even on your lawn, Randian.

          1. Unlike punk rock, most of the consumers were in on the joke that the producers were playing.

            Maybe at one time.

            Geez, I’m not even on your lawn, Randian.

            All the better! Otherwise I’d have to, I dunno, hack into your Brain Node to Stick it to the Man, or whatevs it is that cyperpunkers like to fantasize about.

            1. Randian believes in lawn order.

            2. Please….you couldn’t get past my ICE.

            3. We are closer to cyberpunk now than any other SFnal future. All they got wrong was the wrenching social change. Technology changes the status quo so little now because most of it happens on the margins and with a clear progression.

              If we jumped from rotary to smartphones in a single leap, there would have been an upset in the social order, but all the little steps in between softened the blow.

              Only something truly big, like cheap FTL or functional immortality or complete financial collapse is going to fundamentally change us in a relativity short period of time at this point.

              1. Only something truly big, like… complete financial collapse is going to fundamentally change us in a relativity short period of time at this point.

                From your lips to Bernanke’s ears.

              2. If we jumped from rotary to smartphones in a single leap, there would have been an upset in the social order, but all the little steps in between softened the blow.

                Congruent with a centrally planned, command and control economies and societies, no? Implementation around the margins, piece by piece, bite by bite. Looks like the only thing Plato’s Republic was missing was the technological enforcement. Athens’ technology at the time was rather crude, wasn’t it?

  9. At about 2:00:
    Jessica: Is that a Ukulele?

  10. The porn industry is undoubtedly already at work dreaming up interesting ways to use this.

    1. Porn and a new generation of celebrity sex tapes.

      I’m thinking a new policy at celebrity parties will be, “Check your glasses at the door.”

    2. Are cameras small enough to be inserted into orifices and stay out of the way?

      1. Actually, yes. More applications of Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS).

  11. The glasses will no doubt breakdown “public” privacy, but when we can record directly through the optic nerve (or whatever we work out), it will be destroyed utterly. It may have to just be considered an outmoded concept in the future.

    Millenials already basically act like it doesn’t exist now, but are paying for it as they get older due to the remaining prudishness of older generations. Everyone did dumbs hit when they were a teenager, should they be punished in ways that their parents and grandparents never were just because they don’t see the reason not to document it?

    Is their behavior at fault, or are their parents trying to hold back the inevitable, creating martyrs along the way?


    2. The prudes are on the way out. We’ve already got a massive virtual society that the oldest don’t even realize exists.

  12. Will Google’s Augmented Reality Glasses Facilitate an All-Seeing Surveillance State?

    No. They will facilitate an all-seeing sousveillance populace.

    Liberty-minded folks should welcome this technology.

    1. The section on alibis makes it clear that the more that individuals keep a constant record of their activities the harder it is for Johnny Law to mess with them.

  13. Things like this might just well render obsolete the current law enforcement.

    Add this with facial recognition and reputation tracking apps add in a bounty system and actual violent or larcenous criminals and the whole edifice of the justice system would be unneeded.

    Of course they would want to hang on with drug laws but once actual bad criminals were constrained the need to demonize drug users would fade as they will present no threat.

    The more that information gathering and sharing is decentralized the weaker the state gets.

  14. You people don’t want to see what I see on a regular basis. The horror, the horror.

    1. Maybe you should cover up your mirror then.

      1. Just for that, I’m getting a pair of those glasses and I’m uploading a day of my field of vision. Get ready for bass fishing message boards, chubby-chaser tranny porn and Jersey Shore marathons – in hi-def.

    2. “If only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes.”

      1. Ever notice that he was saying that to David Lo Pan?

        1. I could never understand why he didn’t killed Leon with that little crossed fingernails trick.

          1. Lo Pan used Chinese black magic and black blood of the Earth to call the replicant to shoot Leon. He’s a subtle guy.

    3. Police can subpeona your glass files but do they really want to watch you at the urinal?

      1. Subpeona? Is that like “The Girl from Subpeona?”

  15. Every cop in America should be required to wear these at all times when on duty, and what they record should be used to replace their testimony in court.

    And they should also be reviewable by any member of the public at any time.

    1. The little paperclip guy could pop up:

      “Looks like you’re _____________. Needs some help?”

      -planting evidence
      -shooting a dog
      -intimidating a citizen

    2. Not just cops but code enforcers and anyone who has the power to screw people over.

      All judicial proceedings should also be recorded so that judge fuckery could be seen by all.

      1. “At this point the battery mysteriously failed and the recording ends”

        1. The more cameras, the harder it is for that tactic to continue working.

          1. Yeah the police will be able to look that info up in an instant but average Joe won’t be able to.
            You’ll get cases where the cops have exculpatory evidence but witheld it. Defense bar will need really good tech specialists.

            1. But it will exist. And in time it will come out. This will speed up the cycle of getting rid of bad cops and judges.

          2. The more cameras, the harder it is for that tactic to continue working.

            Depends on who’s in charge of the recordings.

            And on that note, when was the last time you saw an officer charged with evidence tampering when his dashcam tape mysteriously malfunctions just before a suspect is beaten to a pulp?

            1. I agree but Warren’s absolutely right that it will make evidence/reality tampering more difficult.

            2. True. So make sure that one entity is not in charge of all the recordings.

              In place spectators, remotely tuning in watchers, a continual raw feed going to neutrally controlled computers.

              1. In light of their response to civilian review boards, I doubt the cop unions will allow your dream to become a reality, Warren.

                1. The more they resit the worse they look. It’s a win for me either way.

          3. “At this point, the batteries in all fifty-seven cell phones on the scene mysteriously failed.”

            Nah, we’re not that far gone, and hopefully never could be.

        2. Meh, works for the dashcams.

          1. We have ten minutes of video but the five seconds before and eight seconds after the fatal shot was fired are missing.

    3. And if there is no recording of the events, everything the cop says should be presumed to be a lie.

      1. Ding! Ding! Ding!

        We have a winner!

  16. Blipverts can’t be far behind.

  17. What would George Zimmermans’ glasses have shown? Traavon’s. Can your personal glasses be compelled to give evidence against you?

    1. That depends. Who does the data recorded belong to? Is it owned by the device owner? The owner of the server it is saved on? The carrier you use?

      What say our resident legal minds?

      1. If you can be forced to give up your password to encrypted/passworded data on your laptop, then the glasses will be fair game.

        1. Think of all the teens who will become sex offenders for not turning off their personal data systems.

      2. What say our resident legal minds?

        I can tell you what the answer should be (no, this would be compelled testimony against yourself).

        I can tell you what the answer most likely will be (not only are you compelled to turn over your recordings, failure to record will be considered obstruction of justice).

        Naturally, the rules will be different for the po-po.

        1. Maybe if copyright gets strong enough, even the cops won’t be able to touch copyrighted works.

          1. Sometime after infringement gets the death penalty, I suppose.

  18. This is what happens to a cop that tampers with his dashcam.

    Not a fucking thing.

    Hey dunphy, come on here and tell us how cops are held to a higher standard again. It never gets old, especially in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary.

    1. Cogley: [moving to the judge’s dais] I’d be delighted to, sir. Now that I’ve got something HUMAN to talk about. Rights, sir! Human rights! The Bible, The Code of Hammurabi, and of Justinian, Magna Carta, The Constitution of the United States, Fundamental Declarations of the Martian Colonies, The Statutes of Alpha III. Gentlemen, these documents all speak of rights. Rights of the accused to a trial by his peers, to be represented by counsel, the rights of cross-examination; but, MOST importantly, the right to be confronted by the witnesses against him – a right to which my client has been denied.
      Areel Shaw: Your Honor, that is ridiculous! We’ve produced the witnesses in court. My learned opponent had the opportunity to see them, cross-examine them…
      Cogley: All but one! The most devastating witness against my client is not a human being. It’s a machine, an information system – the computer log of the Enterprise – and I ask this court adjourn and reconvene aboard that vessel.
      Areel Shaw: I protest, your honor.
      Cogley: And I repeat, I speak of rights! A machine has none. A man must. My client has the right to face his accuser, and if you do not grant him that right, you have brought us down to the level of the machine! Indeed, you have elevated that machine above us! I ask that my motion be granted. And more than that, gentlemen – in the name of a humanity fading in the shadow of the machine – I demand it. I demand it!

      1. I love that Star Trek listing thing. Here are some things you’ve heard of, now here’s some shit we made up. Khan’s Principles of Obedience were never used, sadly.

          1. Longer than General Zod’s Principle of Obedience, which is just one line long.

    2. That is totally messed up. “I struck him in the face to distract him.” Really dude? Repeatedly? How can a citizen stop a police officer who is in the middle of committing a crime?

      1. How can a citizen stop a police officer who is in the middle of committing a crime?

        The only way a citizen can stop a police officer in the middle of committing a crime is to hurry up and die so the cop can get his paid vacation started.

    3. Oh, this video never gets old. Look, the cop was called out on a domestic disturbance call, he knew he would be facing an aggressively violent perp. Naturally, he feared for his life from the moment he took the call so he knew he would be forced to pre-emptively defend himself. Of course, since you’ve never been a Hero Who Risks His Life Every Day?, you wouldn’t understand. In his wisdom, Officer Friendly turned off the dashcam specifically so that you wouldn’t be confused by the events as they transpired by trusting your lying eyes instead of the True Incident Report as delivered by Officer Friendly.

      And he was right to do so, wasn’t he? You watched the video and you got confused as to what really happened, didn’t you?

      Just keep repeating to yourself, “The nice policeman is my friend, he is there to protect and serve me, if I haven’t done anything wrong I have nothing to worry about.”

      It also helps to keep your eyes lowered, speak only when spoken to, answer all questions with a “Sir, No, Sir” or “Sir, Yes, Sir”, and frequently offer to lick the officers boots. And for God’s sake don’t be dark-skinned. That’s just begging for it.

      1. as heather macdonald points out with robust statistics, this race card claim is utter rubbish

        cops stop people, and use force on people in #’s proportionate the NCVS data.

        iow, there is no evidence cops disproportionately use force against “dark skinned” people

        cops use force against japanese americans less often than their per capita representation.

        cops use force less against women per capita

        cops use force more often against blacks, but the #’s are nearly exactly proportionate to the disproportionate %age of crime committed by same

        thomas sowell has also pointed this out

        iow, look at the NCVS data. that is reporting by crime victims (not cops) as to the race and gender of the person that committed the crime against them

        guess what? people disproportionately commit these crimes.

        men are disproportionate to women

        per capita

        ditto for certain age groups, and certain racial groups

        again, this is according to crime victims, NOT cops

        1. do cops stop people or use force disproportionate to NCVS disparities?


          so this completely obliterates the race card angle

          this sets aside the fact that all this race card crap aside, “dark skinned” people are far more likely to be victims of violent crime to include murder. and the vast majority is intraracial.

          so show me ANY evidence cops use force against “brown skinned” people disproportionate to NCVS data and that would be compellign



    4. yawn.

      yet again, sometimes they are held to a higher standard, and sometimes they aren’t.

      if you can’t even honestly represent what i say, what’s the point?

      i just posted a story of a cop who was fired, and he had no prior discipline problems because his neighbor complained to the PD that he was mowing his lawn in his underwear.

      the picture shows the “underwear” to hardly be revealing in the slightest. it’s not a crime, and it certainly isn’t conduct unbecoming. the picture is at the link

      like i said, in some respects, and in some cases, cops are held to a higher standard, and in some respects and in some cases they aren’t

      you will always be able to find cases of cops being held to a lower standard, just like i can find cases of them being held to a higher standard. because both cases exist

      like i said, nobody has been able to produce even ONE example in the state of WA of a non-prior-felon ever getting over 20 yrs for an assault conviction

      1. except for a cop. and the judge in that case actually said he believed in holdign cops to a higher standard

        fair minded people can see discrepancies on both sides of the fence

        but you aren’t fair minded. you have your agenda and your metanarrative and you only consider cases on “your side of the fence”

        it’s what partisans do with “my party my party” that you routinely denounce when it comes to partisan politics

        show me examples of misdemeanor assault defendants being tried twice for a mere misdemeanor assault with no priors, because they hung the first time. it happened to a cop here and i cited the case (and i think he’s guilty as fuck btw).

        but again, strawmen are easy to attack and i have repeatedly said that sometimes its a higher standard and sometimes it’s a lower standard.

        and fwiw, as i have said in several threads, the worst example of a double standard i have ever seen is the cop who got no jail time for planting crack cocaine.

        THAT GUY should be in fucking prison

        that case fucking outrages me beyond belief.

        i HATE crooked cops, and that guy is so fucking crooked it makes my teeth hurt

      2. you will always be able to find cases of cops being held to a lower standard, just like i can find cases of them being held to a higher standard. because both cases exist

        But I will find 10 to your 1 all day long. And that’s with the cop’s story being taken as the gospel truth until overwhelming evidence disproves it.

  19. The idea of this sounds pretty awesome, but the hipster douchebag quotient in that Google video brings out the Luddite in me.

    1. At the risk of a Gen X’er GOML moment, I agree Chris. And I’m no Luddite.

  20. I am trying to figure out if I am the only sane person here or the only insane one. Everybody is talking about the things we can choose to record or not record with these glasses. I just naturally assumed that Google has developed the glasses in conjunction with the NSA with a built-in trap door – which means the wearer is not going to be the one really controlling the glasses. The glasses aren’t made for you to record what you are doing, they are made for Big Brother to record what you are doing. Forever and ever, amen.

    1. On second thought, yes. It is clear that Google has developed these glasses to allow PROJECT MONARCH agents to record potential victims of Illuminati blood sacrifices. The first test of this was the sacrifice of Whitney Houston for Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee.

      Wheels within wheels, my friend.

      1. You mean the Pentaverate, right?

        1. The “chicken” from KFC is actually the flesh of children that are being raised in various FEMA concentration camps.

          “Secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices” indeed!

          1. I hated the colonel, with his wee, beedy eye, and that smug look on his face: oh you’re gonna eat my chicken, oh!

        2. Don’t fall for it, Pro L. The Pentaverate is just a cutout for teh Illuminati.

          1. I see you’ve never eaten at KFC.

            1. Crap. I already am wearing three layers of tinfoil – are you guys trying to tell me that’s not enough? I try to be as cynical as I can, but sometimes I just can’t keep up.

  21. So NOW you guys are starting to realize Google’s true purpose…. archiving everything you read, watch, listen to, write, see, and eventually, think, even when you try to delete it later…..

    1. Having the information is not the same as being able to use it against you.

      It all has to be analyzed and a strategy designed to use it effectively. That takes humans and the number of people willing an able to do that and the time they have to do it is a bottleneck.

      And the more they try to screw with people the more resistance they will face.

    2. Can these things detect “a strong odor of marijuana”? Because if they do a lot of you guys are going to prison.

  22. I wouldn’t worry about the state here at all. Google, apple, facebook, and other private companies already pry far more into your lives than the state could dream of. The state is small fries and weak compared to private companies.

    I don’t mind though, since it’s for profit!

    1. it is ironic that “little brother” has far more personal private data on us than big brother.

      like i say, when i see intel on a person i get far more stuff from private database info (we have subscriptions to a few (our PD)) than police database.

      even when i am tracking down fugitives, i find private databases in general to be much better at leading me to them

      believe it or not, safeway, 24 hr fitness, and blockbuster have proven exceptionally effective

      i had one felony dv assault suspect with a bunch of warrants who had eluded me for ages.

      the clerk at the blockbuster was able to confirm the times he routinely came in to rent movies from their database. it was easy picking him up. the third time i went there, with less than 4 hr total of surveillance time – he sauntered in

      if you use one of those shopper cards at safeway, those re great for tracking people’s movement patterns (i know when they shop, it helps a lot … because people are creatures of habit)

      the gym works really well too

      looking for a fugitive who looks like he is buffed? check the gyms

      chances are, they come in relatively regular times.

      all that info is easily available if the clerk feels like giving it to you.

      and most will no problem. no warrant needed.

      no constitutional issues, either.

      not even in the 9th circuit

      1. these scumbags often do not pay utilities, etc. hard to track through conventional databases, but they shop, go to the gym, rent movies

        when they use their costco card at costco? easy way to get surveillance video

        got the same guy for multiple protection order violations since i looked at the video from when he gassed up, saw the person in the order (a juvenile whose parents had an order against him to stay 500 ft from their kid).

        every time he gassed up and i could see the kid on the videotape, that was another charge

        this aint england, where they have tons of surveillance etc. done by govt.

        but the private databases are fucking scary

        remember that next time you shop with a credit card, or safeway card (the latter also shows every individual grocery etc. item you purchase… stored… forever.)

        these databases know what movies you watch, what you eat, etc

  23. The State: Datamines so it has the goods to ruin your life.

    Apple/Google/ etc.: Datamines so it can sell you goods you like more than you have now.

    Close call.

  24. from a catching the bad guy and that includes bad cops, and sorting through he said/she said bullshit, even cellphone video is awesome.

    people call us for he said/she said shit that is ongoing. i tell them next time it happens pull out your fucking phone and get me some evidence.

    if you see a crime in progress, be a good witness, and if you are not going to intervene yourself, at least get it on video and audiotape.

    help your local PD help us help your community get these scum off the streets


    1. Too bad Trayvon or Zimmerman wasn’t wearing google goggles. Could have saved the whole country endless debate time.

  25. All I know is as soon as I get my Google Goggles, I’m wearing them to go see Prometheus. For a dollar, I’ll let you watch it on your Google Goggles at the same time.

    Or is there going to be some way to keep me from doing that sort of thing?

  26. No doubt that these glasses will be available in Buddy Holly, Andy Warhol and Elvis Costello styles.

    Thanks to whoever shared this blog the other day. Fucking hilarious. I think it was in that thread about the Brooklyn parents wanting to ban ice cream from the park.

  27. my neighbor’s sister brought home $12947 the prior week. she is making an income on the internet and bought a $582700 home. All she did was get fortunate and put into action the steps reported on this link (Click on menu Home more information)

  28. my best friend’s mother-in-law made $13101 last month. she has been making cash on the internet and got a $375500 house. All she did was get blessed and make use of the advice uncovered on this web site (Click on menu Home more information)

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.