Homeland security

Google Glass User Interrogated by DHS on Suspicion of Movie Pirating

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Before getting too bothered by the following, remember 1) there is nowhere for the federal government to cut spending and 2) the Department of Homeland Security is saving our lives from terrorism and their expense and methods shouldn't be questioned too hard.

Still, I found this long account from the Gadgeteer web site about how a Google Glass user watching Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit at an AMC theater in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday was taken out of the movie and subjected to a multi-hour, multi-agent interrogation by agents of the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs division, and it makes you wonder.

Part of the glass-wearer's reminiscence:

What followed was over an hour of the "feds" telling me I am not under arrest, and that this is a "voluntary interview", but if I choose not to cooperate bad things may happen to me (is it legal for authorities to threaten people like that?). I kept telling them that Glass has a USB port and not only did I allow them, I actually insist they connect to it and see that there was nothing but personal photos with my wife and my dog on it….They wanted to know who I am, where I live, where I work, how much I'm making, how many computers I have at home, why am I recording the movie, who am I going to give the recording to, why don't I just give up the guy up the chain, 'cause they are not interested in me. Over and over and over again.

I kept telling them that I wasn't recording anything – my Glass was off, they insisted they saw it on. I told them there would be a light coming out the little screen if Glass was on, and I could show them that, but they insisted that I cannot touch my Glass for the fear "I will erase the evidence against me that was on Glass"…..They wanted to know where I got Glass…. I offered to show them receipt and Google Glass website if they would allow me to access any computer with internet. Of course, that was not an option. Then they wanted to know what does Google ask of me in exchange for Glass, how much is Google paying me, who is my boss and why am I recording the movie.

Eventually, after a long time somebody came with a laptop and an USB cable at which point he told me it was my last chance to come clean. I repeated for the hundredth time there is nothing to come clean about and this is a big misunderstanding so the FBI guy [actually DHS as it turns out] finally connected my Glass to the computer, downloaded all my personal photos and started going though them one by one (although they are dated and it was obvious there was nothing on my Glass that was from the time period they accused me of recording). Then they went through my phone, and 5 minutes later they concluded I had done nothing wrong.

I asked why didn't they just take those five minutes at the beginning of the interrogation and they just left the room. A guy who claimed his name is Bob Hope (he gave me his business card) came in the room, and said he was with the Movie Association and they have problems with piracy at that specific theater and that specific movie. He gave me two free movie passes "so I can see the movie again". I asked if they thought my Google Glass was such a big piracy machine, why didn't they ask me not to wear them in the theater?….All he said was AMC called him, and he called the FBI and "here are two more passes for my troubles"….

A statement from the DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, obtained by Columbus Dispatch:

On Jan. 18, special agents with ICE's Homeland Security Investigations
and local authorities briefly interviewed a man suspected of using an
electronic recording device to record a film at an AMC theater in
Columbus.  The man, who voluntarily answered questions, confirmed to
authorities that the suspected recording device was also a pair of
prescription eye glasses in which the recording function had been
inactive. No further action was taken.

Khaalid Walls, ICE spokesman

New technologies can confuse people, I suppose. But it takes paranoid government agents to turn being an early adopter into being an obvious criminal of some sort.

Hat tip: Daniel Lozano