As Google Glass — and other eyegear — become commonplace personal and business tools in the near future conventions about their use will rapidly emerge, and as they become more commonplace they will cease to cause head turning and stomach churning.
Google hoped to get out ahead of the Glasshole effect recently by issuing a few recommendations on use. While some are simply smart — like using screen lock, so that in case of losing the eyegear any critical information is secure — others are actually dumb.
For example, this advice:
Ask for permission. Standing alone in the corner of a room staring at people while recording them through Glass is not going to win you any friends. The Glass camera function is no different from a cell phone so behave as you would with your phone and ask permission before taking photos or videos of others.
Why do they say ‘Standing alone in the corner of a room staring at people while recording them through Glass is not going to win you any friends’? Isn’t that what people do at bars and parties everyday with their cellphones?
As many readers are aware, there has been a long history of contention about photography and the rights of photographers and individuals. The law in the US is fairly clear: anyone can take pictures — or video — of anyone or anything in a public place. The premise is that no one can have an expectation of privacy in a public place. And in a private place, you can take pictures unless asked to not do so. Here’s the Ten Legal Commandments of Photography:
I. Anyone in a public place can take pictures of anything they want. Public places include parks, sidewalks, malls, etc. Malls? Yeah. Even though it’s technically private property, being open to the public makes it public space.
II. If you are on public property, you can take pictures of private property. If a building, for example, is visible from the sidewalk, it’s fair game.
III. If you are on private property and are asked not to take pictures, you are obligated to honor that request. This includes posted signs.
IV. Sensitive government buildings (military bases, nuclear facilities) can prohibit photography if it is deemed a threat to national security.
V. People can be photographed if they are in public (without their consent) unless they have secluded themselves and can expect a reasonable degree of privacy. Kids swimming in a fountain? Okay. Somebody entering their PIN at the ATM? Not okay.
VI. The following can almost always be photographed from public places, despite popular opinion:
- accident & fire scenes, criminal activities
- bridges & other infrastructure, transportation facilities (i.e. airports)
- industrial facilities, Superfund sites
- public utilities, residential & commercial buildings
- children, celebrities, law enforcement officers.
- UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, Chuck Norris
VII. Although “security” is often given as the reason somebody doesn’t want you to take photos, it’s rarely valid. Taking a photo of a publicly visible subject does not constitute terrorism, nor does it infringe on a company’s trade secrets.
VIII. If you are challenged, you do not have to explain why you are taking pictures, nor to you have to disclose your identity (except in some cases when questioned by a law enforcement officer.)
IX. Private parties have very limited rights to detain you against your will, and can be subject to legal action if they harass you.
X. If someone tries to confiscate your camera and/or film, you don’t have to give it to them. If they take it by force or threaten you, they can be liable for things like theft and coercion. Even law enforcement officers need a court order.
So, the problem with asking for permission to take a picture is that people will tell you not to, even when you have the right to do so. Then you are in a bad position, and you are taking an action that will support the erroneous notion that photographers in general need to ask permission to take photos.
Don’t get me wrong: police and security people are going to confiscate eyegear, even though they have no justification, and they don’t know the law.
Another bit of bad advice:
[Don’t] Be creepy or rude (aka, a “Glasshole”). Respect others and if they have questions about Glass don’t get snappy. Be polite and explain what Glass does and remember, a quick demo can go a long way. In places where cell phone cameras aren’t allowed, the same rules will apply to Glass. If you’re asked to turn your phone off, turn Glass off as well. Breaking the rules or being rude will not get businesses excited about Glass and will ruin it for other Explorers.
As stated in the 8th Commandment, you are under no obligation to explain what you are doing with any photographic device when asked. Yes, you do have to turn it off when asked to by a responsible party in a private place, like the management of a museum.
And finally, this recommendation, which will seem odd in ten years:
[Don’t] Glass-out. Glass was built for short bursts of information and interactions that allow you to quickly get back to doing the other things you love. If you find yourself staring off into the prism for long periods of time you’re probably looking pretty weird to the people around you. So don’t read War and Peace on Glass. Things like that are better done on bigger screens.
Perhaps on this generation of eyegear, but as eyegear becomes incorporated into a wide variety of work settings in which ‘larger screens’ are not available or impractical– police, military, construction, retail, and manufacturing, for example — people will be goggling all day, and no one will think it strange in the least.