Google Glass goes on sale today – but there are relatively few circumstances where you can legally and safely use it

Google_Glass_detailBy Simon Davies

Google’s controversial Glass technology goes on sale to the public for the first time today amidst a flamboyantly promoted one-day sale across the US – but “buyer beware”. The experience might not be as rich as you imagine.

Ignore for a moment the rising tide of public concern about Glass – or even open hostility toward the product (another Glass wearer was assaulted only last weekend). Fact is that the technology is considered by default as a recording device, so you won’t be able to wear it in a vast spectrum of locations and circumstances.

The most highly publicised prohibition of Glass has been by US bars and clubs which in increasing numbers are banning the product. There are, however, many other conditions in which you simply won’t be able to safely or legally use it. The conditions for use of Glass are likely to be made more onerous because of design advances that will camouflage the technology.

Here’s a reasonably comprehensive list of circumstances in which you can expect trouble if you use Glass:

Be careful when doing this

Be careful when doing this

In your car The UK government has already taken steps to prohibit drivers from wearing Glass, while lawmakers in several US states have introduced legislation to ban use of the technology for anyone in control of a vehicle.

Music concerts, cinemas and some sporting events. These venues (and performers) in increasing numbers are moving to ban photography – particularly online streaming and the recording of moving images – from their events

Clubs and bars  A surprisingly large number of these establishments have already prospectively banned Glass to avoid conflict with patrons. More bans are expected as the product is rolled out.

Around personally sensitive locations. Photography is banned in and around many schools, while the capturing of images anywhere near locations such as a bank cash machine is considered socially unacceptable. It is also disallowed in some specific locations, such as Amish communities and the Golden Gai district of Tokyo. In such circumstances a Glass user would be well advised to completely remove the technology.

Restaurants. Quite a few eating places across the US and Europe have banned amateur photography of their food.

On public transport. With the advent of cellphone image capture there has been a seemingly increasing number of reports of bans on photography on public transport systems.

And be especially careful where you point it in public

And be especially careful where you point it in public

Anyone, anywhere  The privacy and data protection laws of many countries require consent before images are captured. This has resulted, for example, in an outright ban in Hungary on the taking of any image without consent – even in public places. This means a Glass wearer will not be able to activate the device while walking down a street.

Government offices and some public buildings Photography restrictions have been put in place in locations as diverse as the National Archive, the Library of Congress reading room and the 9/11 memorial. Photography is also restricted in many museums. Glass users can expect to be told to remove the technology in these locations.

Secure locations. Immigration halls, police stations, military bases and research facilities are among the many locations that will – and have – prohibited the use of Glass.

Hospitals Healthcare facilities have historically been sensitive to photographic technology and some have moved to ensure that Glass does not further erode an already delicate set of conditions.

Women and children in a public place  Be extremely careful who and what you capture – even incidentally – through the technology. Some states are moving to place highly specific restrictions on capturing images of certain parts of the body.

Natural locations  In what can only be described as a woefully backward trend, some authorities are taking action to prevent even casual photography of famous and beautiful natural locations including beaches and parks.

Landmarks and religious sites Such places as the Taj Mahal, the Valley of the Kings, Emirates Palace, churches and monasteries prohibit the recording of images.

Privately owned property. Such places as shopping malls have historically prohibited photography. Glass has been specifically banned in some commercial premises such as a a pet shop.

Court rooms. In many circumstances, don’t expect to be welcomed in a court room with any recording device – particularly Glass

Google offices  Oh nearly forgot. Some Google offices don’t allow members of the public to take photographs without authorisation, and in some cases (such as in Brussels) there appears to be a visitor’s contract requirement that prohibits the use of such devices.

All of which begs the question… where exactly can you use Google Glass legally and safely?