Will Google Glass Wearers Face Criminal Charges?

Google Glass wearers have been warned they won't be welcome in restaurants, movie theaters and casinos.

But those problems pale in comparison to one flagged this week by Paul Alan Levy, an attorney with the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. Levy says that Google Glass wearers in around a dozen states could potentially face criminal prosecution for recording people without their knowledge.

"Many states require the consent of all parties to a conversation -- at least, conversations not occurring in public situations -- and provide both criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for damages and injunctive relief when communications are recorded without consent by all participants,” he writes in a blog post. States to require that all parties consent to a recording include California, Florida, and Washington. (Levy previously represented MediaPost in a successful effort to unseal a report provided to a federal court by Google, in a matter unrelated to Google Glass.)

To date, no one appears to have been prosecuted, or even sued in civil court, for using Google Glass to record people without their consent. Of course, the technology is still so new that few people have the devices at this point, so it's not surprising that courts haven't yet dealt with this issue.

One question that will almost certainly come up in any disputes is whether people who are recorded implicitly consent by talking to someone who's wearing Google Glass. After all, the devices are fairly distinctive, and are worn in the open.

Another unanswered question centers on Google's potential liability for storing information that might be obtained illegally. Earlier this week, telecom and cable consultant -- and frequent Google critic -- Scott Cleland raised that issue in a blog post.

Despite Cleland's anti-Google take on the question, it seems unlikely that the company would be held responsible for potential violations by users. In fact, given the growth of cloud storage services, many cyberlockers might be storing audio or video recordings that were made without the consent of all parties. So far, however, none of those storage services have been accused of violating wiretapping laws.
7 comments about "Will Google Glass Wearers Face Criminal Charges?".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, December 11, 2013 at 5:11 a.m.

    "Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."

  2. Ashleigh Verdier from ABB, December 11, 2013 at 9:56 a.m.

    I don't think you can assume consent because someone is talking to someone else wearing Google Glass. I'm sure there are many people that don't know that they are being recorded while speaking with that person. I still run into many people that know nothing about Facebook and yet that has been around for a while now. Google Glass is a brand new device that very few people actually own and many people probably don't know exists. Assuming that because I'm speaking to you means I know you're recording me is ridiculous.

  3. Jesus Grana from Independent, December 11, 2013 at 9:58 a.m.

    Polarized opinions will limit the market potential of Google Glass - best possible scenario for product uptake will be for use in manufacturing and logistics processes

  4. Scott Cleland from Precursor LLC, December 11, 2013 at 12:05 p.m.

    The Glass liability question I raised was not that Google stored Glass recordings but that like it does for Gmail, Google might scan the conversation for info to add to a person's profile for targeted advertising... where Google and others could run afoul with wiretapping law is if they "intercept" personal info for purposes other than cloud storage and retrieval... major distinction... other storage companies do not purport to go through people's lockers looking for personal info to leverage for advertising purposes --like Google does. Google appears to be uniquely aggressive in this way... Scott Cleland, publisher of and author of Search & Destroy: Why You Can't Trust Google Inc.

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 11, 2013 at 12:49 p.m.

    New education piece: Do not talk to people with the glass on. Actually someone with a phone or another devise could do it too. We won't know until it happens, the other person finds out, decides to do something, a lawyer takes the case and it is made public. By then a lot of damage, irreparable damage will be done. Anyplace that should not be scoped for potential carnage or secrets including indirectly able to secure the information via spying will be more than not welcome by Google glass. Lawyers, start your engines.

  6. Walter Sabo from SABO media, December 11, 2013 at 12:58 p.m.

    Let me get this straight, the person who came up with "OK GLASS" is a marketing savant?

  7. Thomas Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA, December 11, 2013 at 5:07 p.m.

    Certainly a crime against fashion.

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