Saturday, March 23, 2013

Will Google Glass Change Our Children's Expectation of Privacy?

Do children still have an expectation of privacy?  Every day our personal privacy is slowly being eroded because of advances in technology.  New inventions have enabled our society to more efficiently mass produce food; create the infrastructure to warm our homes and offices in the winter and cool them in the summer; and to invent digital devices that allow us to communicate and share information from around the world and outer space almost instantaneously. 

Frictionless sharing of information between digital platforms enables us to easily provide our thoughts and ideas without having to re-post the same content over and over.  A recent change to the U.S. Video Privacy Protection Act directly benefitted some cloud based computing platforms because the revision now allows them to easily enable their users to share their video viewing history to others online.  While frictionless sharing enables users to quickly post content across multiple digital platforms it may also change our expectation of privacy.  

In 1890, a seminal article co-authored by future Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called "The Right to Privacy" was published in the Harvard Law Review.  The law review article stated, "[i]nstantaneous photographs and newspaper enterprises have invaded the sacred precincts of private and domestic life; and numerous mechanical devices threaten to make good the prediction that what is whispered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the house-tops."  Justice Brandies' thoughts about privacy are generally credited as the first modern scholarship about the right and expectation of privacy in the United States.

While new digital technologies have made it easier for us to communicate with others, many of these new services have made it more difficult to protect our privacy. Once content is converted into digital form, it may go viral and cause major personal embarrassment.  The digital sharing of inappropriate content may permanently destroy one's personal and/or professional reputation.  Student digital  gaffes have been around for years; however, the increased usage of mobile phones with digital cameras, social media, and cloud computing services over the past several years has only increased the potential for more electronic mistakes that may put personal privacy and security at risk.

According to a 2012 Pew Report entitled, "Parents, Teens, and Online Privacy", 81% of parents of teens say they are concerned about how much information advertisers can learn about their child's online behavior.  This Pew Report also found that 69% of parents of teens are concerned about how their child's online behavior may affect their future academic or employment opportunities.  This report was created before all of the recent media attention surrounding Google's Project Glass (aka Google Glasses).   

Project Glass is a virtual reality pair of glasses that contains many of the same features of a smart phone.  For example, Google Glasses have an embedded camera, microphone, and GPS.  While Google Glasses have the potential to become one of the first commercially viable augmented reality devices, there are some significant privacy concerns that may affect children and create legal liability for users.    

If a teacher or a student wears a pair of Google Glasses during class will those in the classroom feel comfortable knowing that every in class interaction may be streamed online?  How will this affect the learning process?  How will students react knowing that everything stated in class may also be converted to text and  stored in Google's cloud and eventually attached to their online profile forever.   How will students feel if their personal conversations and/or in class thoughts  and ideas are monetized by Google and/or advertisers?  How will Google's Voice Search and Search By Image technology be utilized to data mine the information obtained from Project Glass? 

Twelve states generally require all parties consent to their conversations being recorded.  Will Google Glass be required to post a warning label so consumers are fully informed about the potential legal risks of using this product?    

Many schools across the country are implementing digital media use policies that cover social and mobile technologies.  However, Google's Glass Project may require schools to also include augmented reality technologies in their policies. 

The Internet never forgets and content uploaded online is impossible to fully scrub from the web.  Since digital platforms have the ability to broadcast to the entire world audio and video of our children that may permanently damage their reputations should the law provide our children special protections against these situations?  Children under the age of 18 generally have the right to void agreements they enter into so should they also have the right to require that search engines delete personally identifiable information about them that may harm their ability to attend the school of their dreams or obtain gainful employment?    

To learn more about these issues you may contact me at

Copyright 2013 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.

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