Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Will Google Glass Users Run Afoul Of Federal and State Wiretap Laws?

By any measure, Google Glass is an amazing technology.  Having  "eyeball" access to the internet, email, caller-ID, and so much more; and, to do it all with simple voice commands in such a small device makes us all wonder where technology will take us next. But, one capability of Google Glass -- the ability to record audio and video -- has many questioning whether or not this technology has gone too far.

Rightly, people don't like the fact that someone can be taking their picture without their knowledge and Google Glass does just that. The "Glass" gives no indication that a recording is in progress.  Only the wearer knows that for sure.  Before, it was easy to see if someone was recording you.  You could see a camera pointed in your direction.  Or, you could see someone holding up a cellphone.  You had the ability to "duck" those cameras if you didn't want your image  captured.   Not so with Glass.
Even though people might be upset with not knowing that someone is recording their image, it is not unlawful to do so; and, therefore, there is nothing anyone can do about it.  The courts have ruled, over and over again, that, when you are in public or in any establishment that has public access, you have no expectation of privacy and, therefore, are free to have your image recorded.  However, interestingly, recording audio is a different story. That's because, in doing so, a Google Glass wearer might be in violation of federal and state wiretap laws; and, as such, be subject to fines and/or imprisonment or, even, the target of a civil lawsuit. 

According to federal law, if you are in a conversation with someone, you can record that conversation without having to tell the other party.  However, if you are not part of the conversation, and you are recording it, at least one member of that party must be aware that the conversation is being recorded.  This is called the "one-party consent" rule.  Similarly, this is the law in 38 states.  However, in 12 states -- California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington -- all parties need to be warned of any such audio recording activity.
Going forward, it is hard to say what impact Google Glass with have on wiretap/privacy laws.  Certainly, people, unaware of the laws, are sure to get themselves in trouble; especially, if they make an illegally recorded audio conversation available to the world by posting it somewhere on the internet.  Along with "no shirts, no shoes, no service," some business are starting to post "no Google Glass" signs in order to calm the fears of their patrons; especially in bars where people aren't always at their best.  The technocrats who find these signs objectionable have resorted to name calling by referring to those sign-posters as Anti-GlassHoles.
Obviously, the current privacy and wiretap laws never anticipated a technology like this.  And, with the growing anxiousness of the public about being captured by this device, lawmakers may be forced to adopt the all-party consent requirement in all 50 states.  At the very least, the state laws may force Google to add some type of a "recording in progress' indicator on the Glass.  

Anti-Glassholes: Understanding the growing movement against Google Glass:!EMBTP

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