If the thought of being in the same room as someone wearing Google Glass gave you pause for thought last year, brace yourself: the latest in intrusive eyewear from Mountain View could be looming on the horizon.
Google filed a patent this week for a computerized contact lens, leaving privacy advocates to ponder the nightmare scenarios that might arise from a wearable with the potential to be almost entirely invisible.
When the Glass project was canceled earlier this year, at least in terms of selling the wearable direct to the public, the ongoing controversy over its privacy implications seemed to fade away with it.
As the standard bearer for the early wearable tech movement, Glass bore the brunt of criticism for unwanted intrusions into social spaces like restaurants and bars, as well as the general boorish behavior of some users, which quickly earned them the pejorative “Glassholes.”
Against that backdrop, it’s easy to see why some were glad to see the back of Google’s latest attempt to cram its unique take on innovation into our lives (see also: doctored search results, Google+/YouTube integration). Now they have a new tech nightmare to contend with; possibly the worst one imaginable, as wearables shrink to a size that simultaneously fits neatly onto the user’s eyes and disappears from view for anyone they observe.
This is only a patent, of course, so any speculation on the possible negatives is exactly that. The focus of the technology appears to be on biometrics and sending signals to other more familiar devices, such as smartphones and tablets, rather than recording devices. If a contact lens can be computerized, however, it isn’t a huge leap to suggest a camera would be one of the first features a technology company would want to add.
Guesswork aside, though, the concern that Glass stirred up and the issues any of its potential progeny conjure up speaks to a wider mistrust about the motivations of Google itself. With allegations of antitrust at home and abroad, increased competition to its core business from competitors like Facebook, and all kinds of unpleasantness on YouTube, the company’s reputation and reasons for doing things are questioned at every turn. Expect that to accelerate tenfold if this patent for intrusive eyewear becomes an actual product, as privacy groups will want to know exactly what it can do and why.
Note also that Google requires intellectual property law to secure the rights to this technology, and any other ideas and inventions it considers a potential competitive advantage. It’s that kind of IP protection that allows innovation to flourish and makes it worth the investment.
It would be nice if Google remembered that, the next time it serves up search results for sites with unlicensed content or backs dubious “research” papers from piracy apologists.