The Problem With Google Glass Isn't Just Privacy; It's Us

This week, Cesear's Palace became the first casino to ban Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Glass. The ban comes from a more broad law in Nevada that says that the use of recording devices and computers isn't allowed when gambling. Similarly, movie theaters ban recording devices, and recently even a bar in Seattle banned users from using the device while enjoying a drink.

Not surprisingly, lawmakers have already jumped into the Glass fray, and some, such as West Virginia state official Gary G. Howell have proposed bans on wearing the device while driving. And just a few days ago, a group of House members sent a letter to Google's Larry Page, requiring answers by June 14 on how Google will incorporate privacy protections into Google Glass.

But is this really a brave new world we need to protect ourselves from, or just more of what we already have, repackaged into a different design?

Tech history repeats itself
While considering the relevant issue of Google Glass' privacy concerns, I did a quick search for articles from a decade ago about the use of camera phones. As ridiculous as it sounds now, there was a time when many people were up in arms about phones that had tiny cameras built onto the back of them, and many questioned their usefulness.

A New York Times article from 2003 talked about a Chicago law that was under consideration that would make it illegal to use camera phones in public bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers. The article said the problem with camera phones is that they were increasing in number and camera quality was getting much better. At the time, there were only 160 million cell phones in the U.S., and the camera quality was less than 1 megapixel (ah, the good old days).

Clearly, technological capacity and quality have changed, but concerns about how to handle them, and how to regulate them, are almost exactly the same as a decade ago. Sure, you can't wear your phone while driving, but you sure as heck can text with the dang thing when you're not supposed to.

Google Glass bans and privacy protections aren't going to go away, but they shouldn't be the main theme for consumers, or technology investors. Companies are going to continue creating products that push us outside the limits we've placed on technology. Apple, for example, has been rumored to be working on a smart watch, while competitor Samsung has already said it's working on a device. If the device comes out, it'll probably spur new questions, concerns, and possibly backlash from lawmakers. It's understandable to question the need and usefulness of new technology, but it's also shortsighted to write it off prematurely.

Many (including Yours Truly) scoffed at camera phones 10 years ago, but when I whip out my phone to shoot video of my kids, I see its value. Do I use it when I drive, or in a public restroom? No way. But its capabilities have their merits.

Google Glass may fail. It may weird too many people out and cause too many privacy concerns. Or it might be a tipping point into an age where wearable computers transform our lives just like the first computer, cell phone, smartphone, and tablet did. It's still too early to give Google Glass that much credit, but it's also too early to write it off. We may figure out a way to adapt the new technology into our lives without giving up all of our privacy. We've certainly done it before.

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