Snapchat recently unveiled a bit of “must-have” hardware for the fan of the social media service—Spectacles. These are more-or-less ordinary looking sunglasses with teeny-tiny video cameras installed over each eye.
None of the gauche geekiness of Google Glass here—just bright, fun colors. Let the world see yours through your own eyes, in quick 10-second bite-sized totally uploadable video segments.
And unlike the reviled Google Glass, that ran about $1500 a pop, Spectacles can be grabbed for a mere $130. Soon, everybody (and by “everybody,” I mean the vital 18-34-year-old demographic that has made Snapchat such a hit) can enjoy these innovative add-ons to one’s social media repertoire.
What could possibly go wrong?
It out-Black Mirrors Black Mirror, is what it does. In a world where people not only compulsively record shit on their phone—accidents, gang-rapes, funny animal stuff—but also compulsively watch recorded shit, where does the “bits of media” from Spectacles fit in?
But it goes beyond that.
What happens to all the metadata Spectacles records?
Metadata: location and facial/vocal recognition data. These things get “captured” by devices like Spectacles. What are the copyrights over that metadata? Who owns it?
The article “The Privacy Wars Are About To Get A Whole Lot Worse,” written by Cory Doctorow earlier this year, lays it all out for us:
“You will ‘interact’ with hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands of computers every day. The vast majority of these interactions will be glancing, momentary, and with computers that have no way of displaying terms of service, much less presenting you with a button to click to give your ‘consent’ to them. Every TV in the sportsbar where you go for a drink will have cameras and mics and will capture your image and process it through facial-recognition software and capture your speech and pass it back to a server for continuous speech recognition (to check whether you’re giving it a voice command). Every car that drives past you will have cameras that record your likeness and gait, that harvest the unique identifiers of your Bluetooth and other short-range radio devices, and send them to the cloud, where they’ll be merged and aggregated with other data from other sources.”
How will you “consent” to having your image and voice captured by Spectacles?
I’ve always felt that some of the current problems Twitter and Facebook are having now are a result of not taking the time to figure out “everything that could go wrong.” White supremacists and ISIS using Twitter as a recruitment tool? That’s something that could go wrong that actually made the leap and went wrong. Fake news on Facebook influencing elections? Again, it could—and did—go wrong.
The opportunities for abuse with Spectacles, and the inevitable devices like it, are obvious. What are the safeguards not only for right now, but for five years from now when this type of technology becomes ubiquitous and we are all being recorded all the time by freakin’ everything?