Glass Backlash: Google Glass Sparks New Laws, Ejections, and Assaults

Even as Google moves toward releasing its Google Glass wearable computer for a wider audience, the search giant is facing resistance from state legislators and finding it has to lobby to protect your right to potentially distracted driving. At the same time, Glass wearers are catching flack from restaurants and other citizens bristling at the notion that they could be subject to surreptitious recording thanks to Glass' face-mounted camera.

On the legislative end, Reuters has learned that Google is lobbying state representatives in Illinois, Delaware, and Missouri to resist the recent push to outlaw the wearing – not the use: the wearing – of Google Glass headsets while users are behind the wheel. Legislators and outside groups are concerned that the tiny screen on Glass headsets will make wearers more likely to drive while distracted, increasing their chances for accidents and injuries.

Google counters those concerns by saying that Google Glass headsets – which currently sell for $1,500 a pop – aren't yet widely available, making such legislation premature at best. Further, Google argues, there is no way for cops to know whether a wearer is actually using Glass while driving, as the screen is so small.

Anti-Glass legislators counter Google's counter by saying "exactly." They call for not just the use of Google Glass behind the wheel to be outlawed, but the wearing of the devices while driving. Just to be safe, you know.

Google is no stranger to trying to tilt the legislative process, having spent about $14 million lobbying the U.S. Congress and Senate in 2013. As The Verge notes, much of that lobbying dealt with intellectual property rights, data security, privacy, and advertising. Glass is a bit different, though, as it could affect safety in the worst cases and will almost certainly raise privacy concerns if and when the device becomes more widespread.

That potential impact on privacy has already led to friction between Glass wearers and the non-cyborgs around them. SFGate reported on Tuesday on the alleged verbal and physical assault perpetrated against tech writer Sarah Slocum. Slocum was demonstrating her Glass device for a friend at a bar called Molotov's when she was confronted by other bar patrons. The writer later described the assault in a Facebook post.

"OMG," Slocum wrote, taking pains to describe the incident with the appropriate level of gravitas, "so you'll never believe this but... I got verbally and physically assaulted and robbed last night in the city, had things thrown at me because of some [expletive] Google Glass haters."

Slocum says that one man took her Google Glass unit from her face while someone else took her purse and phone. Other witnesses report that a crowd jeered at Slocum, saying to her, "you're being an [rhymes with Glasshole], take those glasses off."

Witnesses note that Molotov's, perhaps, was not the best place to wear the face-mounted device, as the establishment isn't known for having a tech-oriented crowd. Not that Molotov's patrons are punk rock luddites, they say, but Slocum maybe could have made better choices.

"A level of tact might have behooved her," said one thoroughly punk rock witness of Slocum's faux pas.

Yet another Google Glass wearer was asked to leave Grand Coffee in San Francisco due to management's discomfort at the possibility that he might be recording them. Steven Mautone wrote on LivingThruGlass that the establishment allows smartphones, but that the head-mounted camera/computer combination was a step too far. As Mautone's Glass unit is integrated with his prescription eyewear, he said he had no choice but to leave... or enjoy his coffee on the patio.

The righteous struggle of Google Glass pioneers to freely wear their asymmetrical headgear free from tyranny hasn't gone unnoticed. Google itself has already advised the Glass Explorer Community to not be "creepy or rude," when wearing the nascent technology. Among the company's requests is the entreaty that users not be "Glassholes" by recording people that don't want to be recorded or neglecting to deactivate their Google Glass units in places where their use would be inappropriate.