It’s a beautiful spring day in 2020. You wake up feeling wonderful, because today is your day. By this time tomorrow, you’ll have a brand new title, a raise and a corner office. You jump into your personal glide, that brings you to the office where you go straight to the VP of HR to have a final job interview.
But soon, your interview turns into a nightmare, as your career is – literally – on display. You watch in disbelief while past events scroll by: The time you had a disagreement with a co-worker, the customer meeting you made an error that infuriated your client so much you almost lost the account. That one office party where you drank one too many. The meeting you got so frustrated you walked out. Events you had forgotten all about are now being used to paint a picture of your career.
Fortunately, if you are talking to an experienced VP of HR, she will know how to separate incidents from the habitual, and use these events to point out where you need mentoring and coaching. If not, your past has just caught up with you and your career is over.
Not so much, now that Google Glass has arrived. From now on, people wearing glasses can track, trace and store anything in their line of sight, unbeknownst to the people around them. Including you, wherever you are, whatever you are doing. And all uploaded to Google’s servers for eternity, just waiting to be analyzed.
Now you might point out that we’ve been able to do this for a long time with our smart phones and that’s true. But smart phones are visible objects. You notice when someone is filming or taking a picture. Google glasses will come in all shapes and sizes, and we won’t know whose glasses are on. And I’m pretty sure one of the first hacks will remove that pesky blinking light that shows that the camera is on.
Do we really want to live in a world where our every movement can be recorded and stored forever? Don’t even think this is the same as security cameras – their images are only used in case of a suspicion and not owned by one global company. And satellites, no matter how good they are, they just don’t record our daily lives.
This is different: Just think of the office nightmare it presents – coworkers tracking others and using the materials as they see fit. Harassment suits will become a daily fixture of our lives. We can try to be on our best behavior all the time, but even the most rational people become emotional occasionally, do something they deeply regret and make amends for. We’re human. Only regrets and amends won’t help you, when every mistake you’ve ever made is stored on Google’s servers, to be found and used when you least expect it.
Don’t get me wrong: I love new technology and I would certainly like to try a pair of Google glasses. The possibility to overlay the real and the digital world sounds hugely exciting. I have my doubts about the camera recording, the tracking and uploading; it all seems a huge invasion of privacy.
The “Right to be Forgotten” is more actual than ever. Most technology is introduced before we realize how it influences our lives and that we need to regulate it. In this case, it’s necessary to not wait too long. Unless we feel it is appropriate for one company to own everything about our personal lives, including our history, without our permission.
And what will happen, when one day Google decides to commercialize all this uploaded information? Sells reference checks to employers? Joins forces with Facebook to track your interactions with friends and family? Or with Amazon to map out your movements and buying habits? Unlikely? Maybe, but technologically more than possible.
Don’t be naiv and think Google will “Do no Evil”. Google is a public company, and expected to increase profits year on year. I cannot help wonder why Eric Schmidt all of a sudden visits countries that are known for the way they fully control their people. It might sound cynical, but they could provide the ultimate test field for Google Glass.
Oh, and if you still think 2020 is a long way off – it’s 2013 – Google glasses are here. Start revising your company policies.