You may remember the case from a few months ago of the California woman who received a traffic ticket for, among other things, driving while sporting Google’s wearable Glass device. That case was subsequently thrown out, but that same Glass wearer says United Airlines recently told her she had to take her device off while on the plane.
In a post on — where else — her Google Plus page, she writes that she was told to remove her Google Glass before her United flight from San Diego to San Francisco took off “because of security concerns.”
According to the passenger, the flight attendant was concerned that the Glass camera could be used for nefarious purposes and says the in-flight magazine explicitly spells out the airline’s policy on such things.
The passenger posted a blurry-as-all-heck photo (presumably with her Glass camera) of that page, but it’s impossible to read. I couldn’t find the policy on United’s website and it’s not mentioned in the airline’s contract of carriage, but I did find a PDF version of the magazine from which I could scrape the relevant text:
ONBOARD PHOTO AND VIDEO POLICY: United Airlines strives to provide customers with a safe and pleasant travel experience. The use of any device for photography or audio and/or video recording is permitted only for capturing personal events. Any photography or recording of other customers or airline personnel without their express prior consent is strictly prohibited. Any photography (still or video) or recording (audio or video) of airline procedures or aircraft equipment is strictly prohibited, except to the extent prior approval has been specifically granted by United Airlines. This policy is not a contract and does not create any legal rights or obligations.
Once again, it appears as if someone assumed that just because Google Glass can shoot photos and video that it always is shooting photos and video, and not just sitting idle on the user’s head, making them look a bit silly to other passengers.
Interestingly enough, the flight attendant had no problem with the passenger taking a photo with her cellphone camera. The explanation from the attendant was that somehow phones are “different” from Google Glass.
As we’ve pointed out before, many of the privacy concerns about Google Glass — at least with the device in its current, rather obvious form — are much ado about nothing.
It’s much easier for me to covertly shoot video with my phone’s camera than it would be with Google Glass. I can hold my phone to my ear and pretend to talk, while the rear-facing camera records whatever it’s pointed at. I can leave it on the table and record and transmit audio without anyone noticing.
Whereas shooting video or photos with Google Glass requires the user to be looking in the direction of what he or she is recording, which is incredibly obvious, especially when the person is wearing something that only a few years ago would have led everyone around you to think you were cosplaying. I suppose you could take off the Glass and point the camera in the direction of something you want to record, but that may be even more obvious than staring straight at someone.
There will soon be a point when Glass and other wearable devices are seamless integrated into our everyday eyewear, but we’re not there yet and people need to stop freaking out so much.
And meanwhile, over at US Airways, it’s apparently perfectly okay for pilots to wear Glass: