Watch Out for Google Glasses
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- By the end of this year, our society will undergo a most peculiar form of societal change -- and it will involve a lot of strife and conflict. The cause? Google (GOOG) Glasses.
Google Glasses will impact societal behavior from the moment they arrive. As soon as you see them, you're aware that you might be filmed. People don't like being filmed.
Yes, every smartphone can record you and take pictures. But you know when this is happening. It isn't a constant feeling that everyone around you is filming you from every angle. You see them when they do it.
Google Glasses are different. More than just photos and filming, what happens to this data?Let's say that I'm standing behind the counter at a business establishment -- bank, fast-food restaurant, airline check-in counter, whatever. My Google Glasses might display the social security number, the general rap sheet, social media appearances, and so on, of the person in front of me. Perhaps that's a good thing. Some people will think it's creepy, though. Can you imagine the bar scene when people start wearing Google Glasses? Within a second or two, you will have all available information about the person in front of you. Some of that information may not be so flattering. Public places will have to come up with new policies. Hotels, airports, restaurants, gyms and schools will want some say in whether you are allowed to wear these Google Glasses on their premises. You can just hear the panic buttons after the first pictures from people cheating in school or filming in the locker room are released on YouTube. Conflicts about are certain to get very ugly. Other dimensions immediately appear. What if future versions of Google Glasses are very difficult to detect in terms of looking different from regular glasses? What happens when you walk into an establishment today wielding a video camera in the faces of the staff? In a restaurant, a bank lobby, or a gym? You will be asked to turn that thing off, and if you don't obey quickly, you will be escorted from the premises. Google Glasses will make all social/public interaction highly awkward. You're on YouTube everywhere you go. A few short months after their introduction, Google Glasses could already be so widespread that you will be on camera once you stick your nose out your front door. Privacy lawyers, saddle up! The Google Glasses data captured in the form of pictures and videos will not only be used by the person wearing the glasses. The person capturing the images may want to "auto-tag" these media with the identities of the people in the picture/video. Some people prefer to stay off the grid. They pay cash, they drive a car without GPS, they don't have a cell phone, and they're not members of online social networks. They have been able to stay out of most publicly available databases. Once a meaningful percentage of people start walking down the street wearing Google Glasses, not so much. There will be no place to hide -- unless the government legislates Google Glasses, or private establishments decide to ban them. What about Google itself? Google Glasses will be the critical ingredient in the personal information arms race of the (soon to arrive) future. If other people wear them, why shouldn't I? I predict that everyone with means will rush to obtain them, especially as the price falls from $1,500 to $1,000 to $500 and eventually below, over the first two years. If Google succeeds in bringing these kinds of glasses to market before key competitors, most notably Apple (AAPL), but also Microsoft (MSFT), the advantage could prove to be decisive. Google already has a 70% smartphone market share with Android, so it's pretty much already there, but don't forget the Microsoft's market share in the PC business was close to 95% until only a few short years ago. Seeing as Google is likely to engineer some sort of tie-in between the Glasses and Android smartphones, the Glasses should be a tremendous boon for Android. Anyone looking at their iPhone would have to seriously consider switching. Google Glasses may cause societal chaos, but they will be great for Google's finances. At the time of submitting this article, the author was long GOOG and AAPL, and short MSFT. Follow @antonwahlman This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
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