Privacy Ref Blog

A Privacy Pro and Wearable Technology

Privacy professionals, including myself, have been warning of the dangers to privacy from wearable technology. The concerns I have been expressing have been based on reported product capabilities, anecdotal evidence, and published reports. So when I had the opportunity to join the Google Glass Explorer program, I jumped at the chance.

Getting Glass

I received by Glass about a week ago. Like a child receiving a new present I tore open the packaging to see the shiny new object inside. Following the instructions, I set up a Google+ account, downloaded an app to my smartphone, and charged the Glass. I was now ready to go, deferring setting the privacy settings on Google+ until later.

Without adding any glassware (apps), I began to try the thing out; I sent a text message to my wife. I made a phone call; I took a picture and shared it; and I took a very short video.

An unexpected creepiness factor

The next day I thought I was ready to take Glass out in public. Bright and early in the morning I put on Glass, leashed up the dog, and, as we stepped out the door, it happened…the  creepy feeling.

Whether I did it or not, I might be about to be perceived as invading my neighbors privacy. People I don’t know may think I am taking their picture or shooting a video that they think I will share with the world.

More importantly, will I be tempted to take those pictures and videos without asking permission? After all, to take a picture I just have to wink with my right eye (speaking of creepy,will the women think I am flirting?) and aside from a 2 or 3 second light in the screen that is easy to miss, no one will know I took the picture. I had come to he start of an ethical crossroad.

Privacy in public

Off my dog and I went, immediately meeting one of my neighbors, Arnie. Arnie was looking at me a little strangely as we talked but he didn’t ask about the Glass. This is one of the common reactions I get when people notice that I am wearing something “different”.

People who don’t know about the technology try to casually ignore what you are wearing. Arnie thought is was an aid for sight in my right eye. By not asking about Glass he was respecting my privacy. He thought if I wanted to share my maladies with him I would, otherwise it was none of his business.

My discomfort rose. How could I take anyone’s picture without their knowledge when they were respecting my privacy?

My dog and I returned home.

A personal privacy policy and notice

I decided I need to practice what I preach. I need to define my personal privacy policy for the use of Glass. What notice would I give? How would I give it? Would I want to obtain consent?  (I’d be interested in your comments.)

Over the coming weeks I will be using Glass in various social and professional situations. I am interested in how wearable technology will integrate into my life and how people will respond.

I am interested in how businesses will respond. Will security stop me from entering a store or an office building? Will I be asked to take them off Glass during a meeting?

How will other privacy professionals at the IAPP Summit react?

For now, if you see me coming just think of me as Alan Funt for 2014. “Smile, your on Candid Camera”.



Privacy Ref provides consulting and assessment services to build and improve organizational privacy programs. For more information call Privacy Ref at (888) 470-1528 or email us at

Posted on December 22, 2013 by Bob Siegel
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