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Google Glass and Kinect 2 – A threat to privacy?

At SpyCameraCCTV we always strive to bring our customers the most up-to-date security gadgets, and because of this we eagerly keep abreast of the latest industry news. In the last few weeks however there have been a couple of high profile stories from the world of consumer technology that may have a massive impact on covert surveillance. They give an intriguing glimpse of how we might interact with each other in the future, and how it might impact on privacy.

A user navigates the Google Glass menu screen- image by Loc Le Meur via Flickr
A user navigates the Google Glass menu screen- image by Loc Le Meur via Flickr

In early April Google announced it had started shipping the first batch of its innovative ‘Google Glass’ augmented reality headsets to a selection of lucky software Developers and Creatives. Carrying a hefty price tag of $1,500, the device aims to make countless Sci-Fi daydreams a reality by combining a head mounted digital display with a tiny camera, microphone and touch controls. The result is a compact wearable computer that can both connect to the internet and react to voice commands. Google is naturally keen to get the device into the hands of developers to highlight some of its exciting potential uses. These include overlaying directions right into your field of view, hands free text messaging and voice activated searches for information.

Of course, the feature causing the biggest stir is its ability to seamlessly record anything you are looking at using the tiny camera in the glasses’ frame. Whilst Google are vaunting the possibilities for capturing fleeting moments and easy live streaming, many have raised concerns over the implications for privacy. If tiny body worn cameras become ubiquitous, when does it become impossible to tell if you are being recorded? The issue is made even murkier by the Facial Recognition functions already planned for Glass. Even putting aside privacy issues, some have questioned how social interactions will be influenced by your friends constantly being distracted by a computer screen in their view! In fact the device has stirred up so much concern that some businesses in America have already banned their use on their premises!

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More recently, Microsoft has unveiled their brand new Xbox One games console. Central to its design is a next generation version of its “Kinect” motion tracking camera. The device enables the user to control the console using hand gestures and voice commands, as well as boasting more face recognition to help provide content tailored to the user (ie adverts…) . Eyebrows were raised however, when Microsoft suggested the Kinect would remain always-on, constantly recording and listening for commands. Whilst they have since revealed that certain features can be disabled, many immediately suggested more dystopian motives were at work. One patent, for example, suggests the device could be used to monitor how many people were watching a film, and demand an extra fee if it determines a license has been breached.

Most have embraced the possibilities the device allows. Others though, have pointed to laws such as the UK government’s Data Bill as an example of how such information can be used by other groups without our knowledge or consent. A way to personalise content or a gross invasion of privacy? It’s a debate we’re sure to revisit many times over…

 

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