Is Google Glass the new Big Brother?

A techie captures a random fight and arrest with the futuristic specs, raising questions about the ease of surreptitious recording

Google glass
(Image credit: Ole Spata/dpa/Corbis)

On the Fourth of July, Chris Barrett, founder of, was walking around Wildwood, N.J., when he witnessed a fight and the subsequent arrest. Afterwards, he posted the video to YouTube, where it currently has more than 480,000 views.

What's the big deal? He filmed it with Google Glass.

The video itself isn't particularly captivating, unless you enjoy watching rowdy bros scream "U.S.A.!" during a fight. Instead, it's the apparent ease with which he filmed everyone from bystanders to the man being arrested that has gained attention.

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"I think if I had a bigger camera there, the kid would probably have punched me,” Barrett told VentureBeat. "But I was able to capture the action with Glass and I didn't have to hold up a cell phone and press record."

Barrett is in the public relations business, and making his proclamation that "this video is proof that Google Glass will change citizen journalism forever" seem like a grab for attention. Still, there is a kernel of truth there.

"His footage foreshadows the rapidly approaching future where everything can be filmed serendipitously by folks wearing devices like Google Glass without the knowledge of the parties involved," wrote Christophe Gevrey, head of editorial solutions at Reuters, on his personal blog.

Following this logic, and pairing these events with recent revelations about the NSA's electronic surveillance program, Google Glass might look like the first step on the path to 1984. Imagine a future in which something like Google Glass is ubiquitous and the privacy threat becomes clear: You could be recorded in public without your consent at any time, and you wouldn't know who had access to the footage.

Is it time to hide out in an isolated, Wi-Fi-less shack in the woods? Not quite. Worries about a dystopian surveillance state are overblown, wrote Matt Peckham at TIME, noting that Google Glass isn't exactly inconspicuous:

Don't get enamored with the phrase "hiding in plain sight," either. When I bumped into someone wearing Glass for the first time at Ford's recent Go Further conference, though I didn't assume the person was filming me (I'm sure they cared not a whit about me, in fact), I was hyper-aware that I could be filmed — the presence of Glass in the room changes the dynamic, or at least it did for me, based on the conversation we've been having about its impact on privacy. [TIME]

Google Glass, both because of its slightly bulky appearance and relative rarity, stands out. But what happens when it stops looking like something out of Star Trek and just looks like a normal pair of glasses? Google has already reportedly talked to hip internet glasses-maker Warby Parker to make Glass more stylish.

For now, unless you keep exclusive company with shameless young tech entrepreneurs, you probably don't have to worry about being continuously filmed by your peers. But once wearable tech looks like a normal pair of specs or even a contact lens? You can bet this debate will pop again.

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