Google tries to make Glass less creepy with a warmly worded dos and don’ts list

By James Robinson , written on February 18, 2014

From The News Desk

Google Glass isn’t officially on sale, but already a Glass wearer was arrested by federal agents in a movie theater in Columbus, Ohio, on suspicion of piracy, a San Diego woman was ticketed for wearing it while driving, and the devices have been banned from a bar in Seattle. The glasses have spawned a derisive moniker (‘Glasshole’), become a target of mass suspicion, and, as of now, are a clear marker of a person’s embrace of technology and social standing (or lack of fear in coming across as a total dweeb).

With a public release date vaguely rumored to be sometime this year, Google has published a nine point do’s and don’ts list for future Glass wearers, an exercise in understating the obvious culled from other users' collective wisdom.

A big ‘do’ for Google? Asking for permission before taking photos. “Standing alone in the corner of a room staring at people is not going to win you any friends,” Google says (but tracking their search history so you can fire advertisements at them is, like, totally fine!) “The Glass camera function is no different from a cell phone so behave as you would with your phone and ask permission before taking photos of videos.”

That's because the smartphone to Google Glass comparison remains awkward for the company. If someone takes a photo of me on a phone, they have to hold it up and point it at me. It’s harder to do covertly. Glass-wearers only have to touch the side of the lens or speak a command.

Other dos involve being an active part of the Glass Explorer community, exploring the world and using screen lock to protect your device. “Glass can free your hands up to do other things like golfing, cooking, or juggling flaming torches while balancing on a beach ball,” the company says. How many layers of marketing did that sly wink have to pass through to make it on the list?

On the other side of the ledger, don’t wear Google Glass and expect to be ignored. “Let’s face it, you’re gonna get some questions,” it says, before continuing to assert that Glass is comparable to a mobile phone. (If it is, why buy it then?)

Another big no-no is being a “Glasshole,” Google says. If you’re going to wear Glass, it wants you to be nice about it. Don’t be snappy if someone asks about it, and demo it to strangers, if need be. “In places where cell phone cameras aren’t allowed, the same rules will apply to Glass. If you’re asked to turn your phone off, turn off Glass as well,” the company advises, trying to further its point that Google Glass and a smartphone are exactly the same thing.

It is all very surface level stuff - no extreme sports with Google Glass, it is not a suitable screen to read War and Peace on.

For a Glass-wearer (which I am not) it might express useful insights. Who knows, maybe people are tuckering themselves out reading Infinite Jest on it and risking the device rock climbing.

Nevertheless, there’s a true lack of self-awareness that glosses over the friction between privacy and people walking round with concealed cameras over their eyes. All the glib talk in the world won't fix that problem.

[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]