Google Glass backlash escalates to violence

A Google Glass user was physically assaulted and robbed for wearing the device in a bar this week.

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I've written in the past about the less-than-stellar reception Google Glass has received among the population of people who don't have access to the high-tech eyewear, or just aren't interested in a head-worn technology that could record video of passersby without their knowledge.

This week, the backlash turned to violence for one San Francisco tech writer who brought her Google Glass unit to a bar.

Sarah Slocum, whose LinkedIn profile lists her as a contributing editor at Newsdab, said in a Facebook post that she was assaulted by two women at a San Francisco bar after initially showing other patrons how the device works. While being antagonized by the women, whom CBS San Francisco reports were part of a group of bar patrons expressing concern about being recorded with the device, Slocum recorded the beginning of the attack and posted the video to YouTube.

Shortly thereafter, a male patron reportedly stole her Google Glass device off her face, and when she chased after him, two other men stole her wallet and cellphone, Slocum explained in a Facebook post.

Brian Lester, a witness who spoke to CBS San Francisco, says the issue escalated when a male friend of Slocum physically attacked another male patron who made fun of her for wearing Glass. A major contributing factor to the confrontation was the nature of the crowd at the bar, according to Lester.

"You know, the crowd at Molotov’s is not a tech-oriented crowd for the most part," Lester told CBS San Francisco. "It’s probably one of the more punk rock bars in the city. So you know, it’s not really Google Glass country."

Lester did clarify that Slocum did not deserve to be physically attacked just for bringing a high-tech toy to a punk rock bar. But that above quote kind of underlines a major issue Glass users face. Glass is hardly any different, in terms of functionality, than a smartphone. People largely just aren't prepared to see one that's worn as eyewear, especially at closing time at a dive bar.

Making the situation worse are continued rumors that Glass will use facial recognition to find information about people as they walk down the street. These kinds of reports are perpetuated by companies like FacialNetwork, which developed a facial recognition app for Google Glass while fully aware that it violates the Glass developer policy. The people behind NameTag, which appears to work pretty well, have said that even if Google doesn't change its policy regarding facial recognition, they will look for competitors that will.

This is a problem with no clear end in sight. One part of the population is so excited about the progression of mobile technology that they move forward with complete disregard for privacy concerns. While violence against Glass users (hopefully) won't become commonplace anytime soon, the other side isn't just going to change their minds and warm up to the technology.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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