'Glasshole' app kicks Google Glass off wireless networks

google glass 2012

An artist from Berlin has developed a program that sniffs out nearby Google Glass devices and denies them entry to Wi-Fi networks.

Julian Oliver, the designer behind what he's dubbed Glasshole.sh, told Wired that he found a unique character string in Google Glass' MAC addresses and designed the app to recognize the address when a Glass unit tries to connect to a nearby Wi-Fi network. Then, the app uses the Aircrack-NG program to send the device a deauthorization command on behalf of the network, and can even force the Glass device to beep to alert others that a Glass wearer is nearby, according to Wired. The idea is to prevent Glass devices from connecting to cloud servers where they could immediately upload photos and video of their surroundings. With a mini computer like Raspberry Pi, you could use the app wherever you go.

Oliver, who claims to have run successful tests with the app in his design studio, told Wired that he came up with the idea after he heard that people had attended a fellow artist’s exhibit while wearing Glass, and grew concerned at how easily they could record whatever they want in public without the permission or knowledge of anyone around them.

Comparing the app to a phone jammer, Oliver says Glass and its discreet recording capabilities make any requests for privacy obsolete.

"To say 'I don't want to be filmed' at a restaurant, at a party, or playing with your kids is perfectly OK," Oliver told Wired. "But how do you do that when you don’t even know if a device is recording?"

Interestingly, the anti-Glass movement has become just as organized and passionate as the technology's enthusiasts. According to Business Insider, Oliver is a member of a group called Stop The Cyborgs, whose blog is updated regularly with reports and analysis of how Google’s connected eyewear violates privacy.

The group is a culmination of the Glass vitriol that has snowballed since the device was first introduced to a select few Explorers last year. In many cases, the presumption that Glass users are secretly recording everybody within their vicinity has caused the backlash. In February, a San Francisco woman was attacked and robbed for wearing Glass at a bar after other bar patrons reportedly accused her of recording them. A month later, Google published a Google+ post that sought to debunk myths about Glass, including that the device is neither always on nor always recording when a user is wearing it.

The attempt at instilling good will didn't seem to do much. Less than a month after it was published, another Glass user was accosted in San Francisco when a stranger stole the device off his face and destroyed it as she ran away. Then, last month, a woman was asked to remove her Glass device while dining at a restaurant in New York, and was asked to leave when she refused. Later, the restaurant would claim that it had only asked her to remove her Glass unit as "a direct result of other guest complaints."

I’d be surprised if Google doesn't turn to hardware to alleviate some of these concerns. Attaching a simple red light, the same kind that has always alerted people when video cameras are recording, would solve this problem pretty easily.

How it handles the other concerns, most of which stem either from a misunderstanding of Glass’s approved features or an unfair generalization of the people who use the device, remains an important question for the technology’s future.

In the meantime, Glass opponents will continue to wage their war against the technology. Oliver, for example, plans to develop a "roving Glass-disconnector," which Oliver admitted might be "more legally ill-advised," according to Wired.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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