Google Glass will ‘end privacy’,
claims Cory Bernardi



blog Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has made some outlandish statements in his time. Questioning the scientific legitimacy of global warning, criticising the Islamic religiion, making offensive statements regarding people’s sexual orientation. Yup. This is one Liberal Party member who some of the more moderate members of the party probably would like to keep on a very short leash. Well, Bernardi’s latest target isn’t sexuality, religion or climate change. It’s privacy. And in this vein, the Liberal Senator has unleashed on Google’s augmented reality Glass project, which has been getting some press in the US as it comes closer to becoming a commercial project later this year. Bernardi writes:

“… there is one serious aspect of GG that we should all be concerned about. Surveillance.

You see, GG comes with the ability to record video and audio of everything that happens throughout your day. No longer is there a need to grab an iPhone and click to capture the moment. GG can do it all day, every day, automatically. That might be fine if you are the user but what if you are an unwitting victim of such recording?

A single GG wearer in your favourite restaurant could capture your image and your conversation without you ever knowing. The footage would be stored on the Google servers, your voice could be translated into text and with the use of facial recognition, could be actually matched to your Google profile. You might even find it on a social media site somewhere for millions of others to see.

It could mean the end of privacy as we know it.

Now that might be an extreme scenario that may never come to pass. Some will argue that if you have nothing to hide then there will be nothing to worry about, and they might be right. But we all have things we wish to keep from the public record: whether it be a conversation with our spouse, a personal failing, medical records or a youthful indiscretion. The advancement and availability of cutting edge surveillance technology like GG could radically change all of that.

It’s one reason we should question whether some of the great advancements in technology are designed to serve us or serve the interests of others.”

There’s a lot more like this, and it’s all quite conservative. Frankly, the technology behind Google Glass, particularly the camera issue which Bernardi is concerned about, has been around for a while now, and while there will no doubt be some social issues to arise as Glass and other, no doubt, iProducts like it become popular, we can’t see privacy as we know it dying. Perhaps what Bernardi should be really worried about is not that people would film him too much, but that people would realise the extreme nature of some of his views and would stop paying attention to him at all.

Image credit: Steve Jurvetson, Creative Commons


  1. Even though I despise this guy, I think he does have a good point. I can’t help but think of Black Mirror S01E03, ‘The Entire History of You’…
    Still this is an inevitable issue and like always with technology we take it as it comes and adapt for the better.

    • That was a great episode of Black Mirror. A highly extreme (and comical) use of future technology which I doubt will come to pass. At least I hope not!

      There’s always going to be privacy concerns as more of our life ends up being captured and stored, and everything continues to become more connected. However once a sizeable portion of the public are wearing them, we’ll be as accustomed to them as we are security cameras, and it’ll gradually become a new norm.

      I can see a few fights breaking out over people wearing them in places they shouldn’t, but that’s par for the course, given the majority of people now carry around an HD video camera in their smartphone anyway (which you can easily take covert pictures or record conversations with, while appearing to be just checking messages). I don’t see how Google Glass is that different. Particularly as they look different, so you can easily identify them from normal glasses, and hence know who is potentially filming you.

      I say bring it on. If anything they will probably lead to benefiting society, such as catching more criminals on camera, and providing us with amazing eyewitness videos of incredible events.

    • Similar Glasses, generally sunglass type have been available for years. Vid/Audio key tags similar to car remotes have been available for years

  2. If people want to record you right now they can do it and much more covertly than Google Glass someone clearly wearing google glass is not covert at all and there is a light to tell you it is recording

  3. I don’t like the idea of talking, face to face, with somebody wearing GGs. You could have your whole conversation being recorded without you knowing or giving your consent.
    Personally, I’ll be running a mile in the opposite direction of anybody wearing these things.
    Whether or not I have something to hide is irrelevant.

  4. Bernardi is such a one-track mind.

    He also complained about televisions with built-in video camera so hackers can look into your lounge room. Of course, there is nothing about a television with a built-in video camera that can’t be fixed with a piece of black tape over the lens.

    But that would be a too simple a solution.

  5. Where is the tech development in anti surveillance then to counteract the new tech – years ago there was a paparazzi handbag that reacted to flashes by emitting its own flash so any resulting image was obscured. Surely there are audio obscuring devices on the market / adaptable to create i privacy time

  6. If these things can record as much as everyone is worried about, I’ll be doing all sorts of rejoicing because it will mean they’ve invented some radical new battery technology that is capable of running a recording device for long periods of time that fits in a pair of glasses.

  7. Sousveillance is a term that was coined Steve Mann, who has developed his own augment reality system and has been wearing for the past 30 years.

    So if you go into a restaurant today, you’re generally already going to be filmed (maybe not restaurants, but generally retail stores and some nightclubs for sure), which Bernadi seems to be ignoring. The difference between surveillance (that we already have today) and sousveillance is that the power relationship is reversed. It’s not the store recording everything you do, it’s you recording everything the store does.

    Consider London’s extensive network of CCTV cameras. The goverment and law enforcement have video tapes of you doing just about everything you do in a day. But with Google Glass, this unique power to know everything you do is removed as a government monopoly, and suddenly everyone has the same power as the government.

    I think Google Glass will take quite a bit of getting used to, and there are certainly implications for the kind of always-on recording that it allows. But I think it’s generally a good thing.

  8. Sounds like he’s been reading this. The problem with his argument is that he has taken some privacy musings and turned them into facts in his head. We don’t know that Google will be streaming video from glass, we don’t know they’ll be storing this stuff, we don’t know it will be indexed or searchable, we don’t know it will be linked to any other content or services such as +.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s not a possibility and it doesn’t mean someone wearing Glass can’t adapt it to record everything themselves, so the perception for others that they are being recorded is still valid.

    The differences between existing recording devices and Glass are broadly twofold. First, existing devices are either obvious, impersonal and limited in scope (eg security cameras are easy to spot, record everything in that environment constantly (so don’t target individuals) and the footage isn’t readily accessible to external review), or they’re obvious in the extreme and socially unacceptable for continuous usage (camcorder, digital camera or smartphone).

    Secondly there’s the potential scope for invasion of privacy, permanent storage, indexing, searching and linking that comes from the greater Google ecosystem. Sure, today someone could record you with their phone and upload it, someone else could tag you in it and you have a potentially embarrassing moment of your life indexed and searchable news perpetuity. But such instances are relatively few and far between, they’re relatively easy to avoid and there’s a great deal of effort involved in the process that inhibits mass logging of minutae. Glass could (if the tinfoil hat brigade is on the money) change all that, in a very scary and invasive way.

    So yes, currently this stuff is a bit over the top, it’s wild speculation and a bit paranoid. But it is technically feasible today. Imagine how easy it will be in five years time. And while I personally trust Google like no other corporation in its class, so I’d be surprised if they went down the path of logging and indexing the world, I don’t have any such trust for Apple, or even Microsoft.

    So I believe that this is a conversation we do need to have and it’s better now than after someone’s been collecting video from users for years. Sometimes it takes an extreme opinion to drag a topic kicking and screaming to the attention of those who should have been watching in the first place.

    Oh and I’ve thought of a relatively simple way to ‘opt out’ from being recorded by Glass – design a universal or ‘standard’ QR-Code you can wear on a T-shirt or hat or badge or pin that Glass (or any smart device) will recognise and either instantly switch off or just blur the person in question (and stop recording audio, of course).

    • or they’re obvious in the extreme and socially unacceptable for continuous usage (camcorder, digital camera or smartphone).

      I can put my camera into “record video” mode and sit it in a pocket such that the camera records everything infront of me. There are no lights. It makes no sound.

      In contrast; Google Glass is on my face looks god-awfully obvious and has a light when it records.

      I like your idea of the QR code, but as a user, I always want access to an un-fuzzed version of my video. Youtube on the other hand; should have an automatic “QR Code detection and fuzzing” algorithm. Overridable only upon proof of trust to google (or someone).

      • Yes, but because you can do this doesn’t mean that’s the generally perceived view of what people actually do with their phones. I use my phone to record every trip I do in my car, but most people would assume I just had it dash mounted for convenience or maybe satnav.

        Whereas the perception that people are recording you from Google Glass is precisely what it says on the box.

  9. While I have no liking or disliking for such a device, I do note that this device has the potential to do a number of the things that governments, spy agencies and law enforcement agencies want to do to us: secret surveillance, eavesdropping, facial recognition and personal identification.

      • Or douche bags making their own “home movies” with these unsuspecting girlfriends…

        I read an article on why Google Glasses will fail, I can’t find the link right now but some of the issues were that people will shun wearers afraid of everything they being recorded, companies will ban their use in the office for privacy concerns and in the end ask you to remov them before talking to you.

        Speaking to others at the moment, when they pull out their smart phone you know you don’t have their undivided attention, now they can even be looking straight at you, and really just reading twitter.

        • Yeah because the ‘unsuspecting’ girlfriend is going to go at it with the guy while he’s wearing one?

          It’s social etiquette that is the real issue and not the tech.

          • I personally think social etiquette is going to change over the next few decades. This problem is tackled in a RPG I play with some friends known as Eclipse Phase.

            In the game is considered socially inappropriate to let the mesh, the Augmented Reality in which the players live, stop you from interacting with people in person. In the lore of the games people who spend to much time in the mesh and do not focus on their immediate, actual, surroundings, are known as “droolers”, for there tendency to gaze off into space.

            Some of the people even get themselves augmented in order to allow themselves to better respond to the now increasing stimuli, allowing them to better multi-task, even upload “skillsofts” to improve their social protocol.

            The problem with shunning technology like Google Glasses is that although the technology is somewhat “obvious” now, the fact that is socially inappropriate to wear a visible camera on your glasses is not going to create disincentive use, because the convenience factor of this technology cannot be ignored, but instead create incentive for the development of DISCRETE models.

            This is a fundamentally bad idea as it does not deal with the consequences of the technology, merely pushes the existence of the technology outside the public awareness. We are better off with technology that is obtuse, and allowing the public to slowly get used to the idea of the possibility of being recorded.

            The fact is more and more data about our data to day lives are being recorded, another theme explored by EclipsePhase, and we need to learn to develop tolerance and understanding of this fact. If we force the recording and collating of this data into the underground of “socially unacceptable”, we get the problem that people are not aware of the existence of such monitoring.

            An example of this is with Office365 vs Gmail, where Microsoft are currently engaged in a smear campaign about the fact Gmail “reads your messages” in order to produce automated ads, and other concerns about the collection of WiFi hotspot data by Google.

            These developments were actually inherently harmless, but public outrage and misunderstanding, and quite frankly, knee-jerk reactions, like the claim by Cory Bernardi, here, do nothing to expect paint the technology as evil, rather than looking into the risks and how to mitigate them.

            I see time and time again an argument cropping up, particularly in online communities, a prudent example was when I @replied to someone on Twitter and was told them that they didn’t want my input in this conversation. I politely pointed out that the message they sent was in a public space.

            In this case I entered into a conversation uninvited, but the conversation was akin to two people talking loudly on the train (since they had included a couple of hashtags). Was I in the wrong for interrupting their conversation, or were they in the wrong for “talking loudly”? Should they have “talked quietly” (i.e. not included the hashtags, such that their public space conversation didn’t enter my perception, or should I have ignored the “rude people interrupting my train experience”. I honestly don’t know, but we need to open a dialogue about such things.

            The same argument can be applied to Google Glasses. Is the problem that they are recording something they shouldn’t be or observing something they shouldn’t be? Because aren’t they one in the same? Afterall our eyes are the most advanced recording device known to man.

          • In 10 to 15 years this tech will be in contact lenses, another 20 and there will be cyber eye implants. It is going to become less obvious, which is why we need to work out how to approach it as a society now (or on the next few years) before it becomes essentially impossible to detect.

            I actually think there is potentially tremendous benefit to ubiquitous recording of everyone’s actions (that is decentralised and distributed) – people’s actions will change with the constant knowledge of the liklihood of being recorded. There’s a lot of antisocial behaviour that people only engage in because they don’t believe there are any ramifications for it. A great example is the driving behaviour of people in Perth – if you drove in such an aggressive manner in many other cities in the world you’d be shot, so people are more courteous and respectful of others as a result of the threat of violence that other road users could easily inflict.

            A common charge to antisocial behaviour is if you wouldn’t act like that in front of your wife (or a police officer or other authority figure who’s opinion is important to you) then you shouldn’t be acting like it at all. Ubiquitous recording by everyone of everyone will result in most people improving their conduct – the ones that continue antisocial behaviours and crimes would have done them anyway no matter what social and criminal penalties are put in place.

  10. So presumably Cory Bernardi will be voting against the data retention bill? Presumably he has a problem with cameras in public places (speed cameras, security cameras in shops etc.)?

    He has a good point – we need to be careful about our privacy. It’s just such a shame that he doesn’t seem to have a problem with the ways in which governments have increasingly intruded on individual privacy in the name of “security”, “convenience”, or some other catch-all.

  11. The two main criticisms against his comments seem to be:

    1) GG is obvious.
    2) You can make recordings today.

    Both seem to be rather uninformed. Sure GG sticks out like a sore thumb today to the initiated – but given a few generations it or similar technologies could be hard to detect. Secondly, the complaint wasn’t that one could record if one wanted to… rather that such recording, processing and storing of data would be a commonplace occurrence – potentially happening in the background.

    It’s kinda sad to see such a poor rebuttal of some very real issues – regardless of who’s making the claims and his own standards.

  12. Personally, I’d be afraid to wear GG. What if I inadvertently recorded a murder or drug deal whilst watching a hockey game and the purpitraitors saw me and decided to rub me out on the trip home.
    Although, having said that I always record trips in the car to help with insurance claims.

  13. I would suggest that we take some time to search for the term “spy camera glasses”. As was stated previously this technology has been around for years. And not just in glasses. Anyone interested can buy a button sized HD camera.

    Me I am a bit paranoid, do not want someone seeing me scratch the side of my nose and mistake this for picking it in public.

    What the discussion so far fails to address, is that there are already laws in place to protect peoples privacy. But these are after the fact. The penalties I believe are harsh, and may even include charges of defamation.

Comments are closed.