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Google Glass: Why it scares academics and lawmakers

Although consumers will have to wait until 2014 to buy Google Glass — the innovative device NPR recently described as “a pair of glasses that essentially act as a heads-up display, as well as a camera, all attached to the Internet, which streams information directly into your field of vision” — a diverse group of voices is raising a warning about the undesirable consequences that could come to bear via Google Glass.

“The stealth nature of Google Glass is raising concerns among some lawmakers and privacy experts who say the device makes it too easy for users to spy on others and its development signals a deeper blurring between the digital and real worlds,” Mark Guarino wrote Monday for the Christian Science Monitor. “We all may understand the safety hazards and social norms presented when holding our phones up to record or text others, but wearable computers, because they are more inconspicuous, present complications, especially whether they can be regulated through existing electronic surveillance laws, critics say.”

Regarding the specific activities of lawmakers, last week a West Virginia legislator had Google Glass in mind when he introduced a bill that would make it illegal for any driver to operate a motor vehicle while “using a wearable computer with head mounted display.”

Writing for tech website GigaOM, Katie Fehrenbacher addressed the philosophical aspects of technologies like Google Glass that could ostensibly become seamlessly integrated into our lives: “The biggest changes coming for the connected world won’t be about technology; they’ll be more about how philosophical, legislative, and political norms evolve in response to this new world. And using Google Glass as a way to be the master of the Internet of things would have interesting implications for all of these areas.”

University of North Carolina psychology professor Barbara Fredrickson penned an op-ed piece in Sunday’s New York Times that, although it did not mention Google Glass by name, examined the biological costs of people becoming more attuned to their digital devices at the expense of old-fashioned interaction with their fellow humans.

“Most of us are well aware of the convenience that instant electronic access provides,” Fredrickson wrote. “Less has been said about the costs. Research that my colleagues and I have just completed (suggests) that one measurable toll may be on our biological capacity to connect with other people. … In short, the more attuned to others you become, the healthier you become, and vice versa. This mutual influence also explains how a lack of positive social contact diminishes people.”

Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at or 801-236-6051.