Speed Reads

'privacy in mind'?

Facebook's new smart glasses raise 'about a million concerns' about privacy

The first reactions to Facebook's smart glasses are in, and when it comes to privacy, journalists have a few concerns. 

Facebook on Thursday announced its first smart glasses, Ray-Ban Stories, which allow users to capture photos and videos. The company said they were designed "with privacy in mind" and include "features to provide control and peace of mind to both device owners and bystanders." For instance, an LED light is built into the glasses so people will know when someone is taking a photo or a video. 

But journalists who used the glasses pointed to potential privacy concerns. For one, Engadget's Karissa Bell noted they store transcripts of users' voice commands accessible by "trained reviewers." While users can opt out of this, The New York Times' Mike Isaac wrote, "I didn't love that and imagine others won't be too keen, either."  

Additionally, BuzzFeed News' Katie Notopoulos reported she was able to cover the light so it wasn't visible when taking photos and videos, and she described the product as "barely perceptible spy glasses" that look just like regular sunglasses. Similarly, WIRED's Lauren Goode and Peter Rubin wrote Facebook could have made the light "much more obvious," and The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern said she recorded over 20 people without them realizing because even when not covered, the light is difficult to see at a distance. Ray-Ban Stories raise "about a million concerns about the future of wearable technology," Stern wrote. 

Facebook told the Journal it consulted with privacy groups and experts like the National Consumers League, but a vice president for that group, John Breyault, said they suggested having the camera stop working if the light was concealed or tweaking the design to make it clearer these aren't normal Ray-Bans. "Unfortunately," Breyault told the Journal, "those features weren't included in this first iteration of these smart glasses." All in all, writer Ella Dawson dubbed this "another privacy disaster from Facebook."