This might be the point where Google Glass went from being a fun nerd toy and a useful medical device to being seen as the best police surveillance tool ever invented.
Case in point: Police in the tiny Middle Eastern state of Dubai are using the face computer to help identify stolen cars, according to a report this week in the Gulf News.
Two apps have been created for the Dubai Police’s Smart Services. “One,” Colonel Khalid Nasser El Razooqui told Gulf News, “will allow them to take photos of traffic violations from the Glass,” and the other app IDs wanted cars by cross-referencing license plates.
Google Glass is also being explored by such major police departments as those in New York City and Los Angeles as well as smaller ones like Byron, Georgia.
READ MORE: New York Police Department is beta-testing Google Glass
Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union endorsed police body-mounted cameras, but only if there are the “right polices in place.”
The ACLU explained, “We’re against pervasive government surveillance, but when cameras primarily serve the function of allowing public monitoring of the government instead of the other way around, we generally regard that as a good thing.”
The ACLU, of course, was talking only about cameras, not Glass.
Glass is a quantum leap up from the wearable cameras, such as ones from Taser, that are being widely tested in police departments around the world.
As currently used, body cameras are only recorders that dump their captures into the cloud.
Glass, on the other hand, is a fully functional, two-way connected computing device that could, say, talk to the $1 billion Next Generation Identification Face Recognition program now in development at the FBI or to IBM’s $1 billion thinking supercomputer Watson.
There’s really no comparison between a dumb camera and Glass for the police. The latter offers face ID, automated license plate recognition, building ID, superimposed images of missing people and wanted posters, and backgrounders from any database on any individual.
Not to mention the fact that data generated by any Google product always seems to get back to Google’s bulging databases.
We can’t speak for Dubai’s privacy laws, but let’s be real about the U.S.: This is a country where phone data cannot be kept from intelligence agencies and where semi-automatic weapons cannot be kept from convicted criminals.
So the boatload of laws, policies, and best practices needed to keep your privacy safe from Glassed cops seems as far away as any star.
It’s not only surveillance consciously conducted by police. Researchers have been experimenting with the creation of spyware for Glass that is literally spyware, taking and sending images and potentially other data without the wearer being aware of their role as a human drone — including, possibly, Glass-wearing police acting as drones.
Note to Google: is this really how you want to go down in the history books?