Perspective Is an Important Element of Privacy

One thing I find consistent about privacy issues is an inconsistency in approach and viewpoint. What is and is not deemed acceptable seems to change dramatically based on several factors, including geographic location (which I suppose is really more of a cultural issue than a geographic one), whether it is about one’s own information or you are doing something with someone else’s information, and whether the party with the information is government or business.

Many times it comes down to issues of trust, understanding, surprise, and how public one wants their life to be.

An example is in this article entitled Eric Schmidt is using the same argument against drones that others use against Google Glass.

One of the most common concerns raised about Google Glass (other than looking like a nerd) is the potential for privacy invasion. The more of these there are around, the more likely each one of us is going to be captured on the video they can take whether we like it or not. And where is all this video going to end up? That issue has also been raised about drones. Google’s Eric Schmidt has apparently stated that drones should be strictly regulated for privacy reasons, which seems inconsistent with their approach to Google Glass.

Perhaps one explanation for this could be that privacy in the United States is viewed differently than in Canada and other parts of the world. In the US, privacy is not approached as a holistic discrete topic to be regulated by general principles. Instead, it is regulated on a piecemeal basis, such as a privacy law that applies only to movie rentals.




  1. David,

    And, of course, that Google Glass is (for now) arguably as plain as the nose on the face of the wearer while – notionally out of site (added – oops: I meant “sight”, but the pun almost works) so out of mind – it’s easy to forget the likelihood that the same scene is being captured by the traffic surveillance cameras, the outward-looking surveillance cameras on the buildings in the area, perhaps the ATM camera behind one, and the cameras & video recorders on the smartphones or tablets that the nearby tourists used to take pictures.

    That barn door fell off its hinges years ago.

    In passing, do you think we’ll hear complaints if it turns out that there’s a clue to the identity of the Boston Marathon bomber(s) in any video or picture taken before the explosion? Even if, remarkably, that’s because it turns out that somebody in the crowd was wearing a version of Google Glass? As you said, perspective matters.


  2. I think a major issue is what happens to the video, and who retains it. It’s one thing to utilize isolated unpublished video and images as a tool to help a specific criminal investigation. It’s a very different thing if all that video was being stored “just in case” it might be useful later.

    The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is now, for example, trying to get more details from the FBI about:

    ” “Next Generation Identification”, a massive
    database with biometric identifiers on millions of Americans. NGI
    aggregates fingerprints, DNA profiles, iris scans, palm prints, voice-
    identification profiles, photographs, and other identifying information
    culled from numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
    The FBI intends to use facial recognition to identify individuals within
    the database.

    In addition to data from suspects and convicts, NGI will contain
    records on millions of US persons with no arrest records or reason for
    suspicion. The FBI also plans to collect surveillance camera footage
    and other publicly accessible images to add to the agency’s facial
    recognition program.”