Google Glass comes to NYPD officers in a bid to see how the new technology can benefit police work. Glass beta testing launched last year, and although the device is not yet ready for commercial sales, companies and individuals can sign up for the Google Glass Explorers program to try out the device and send Google data to fine tune the fictions and features before the final version comes to market.
NYPD are expecting Glass to help streamline several facets of police work, including getting directions to emergency sites on the road, unobtrusively monitoring citizen interactions, and keeping officers up to speed with instant updates on changing situations. But while other police departments have had success placing cameras on officers, reducing the number of cases of belligerent citizens and abusive officers equally, there are concerns that Google Glass in the NYPD will result in breaches of privacy for anyone who deals with an officer wearing the mobile computer.
This concern stems from the facial recognition software loaded into Google Glass headsets called NameTag. An officer patrolling the streets of New York with NameTag would be able to pull up a file on anyone they walk past, with information including their address, phone numbers, and work place. Of course, if the person has no criminal record, the officer knowing more about them is unlikely to negatively affect how their interaction plays out. Many are quick to point out that officers who opt in once Google Glass comes to NYPD in bulk are really equipped with nothing more than a more intelligent dash cam. Just think of all the great YouTube videos that will result when the camera follows the officers during their daily interactions with the populace. Ideally some restrictions will be in place about how and where an officer can use the recording and recognition functions possible with Google Glass, such as on private property.
All legal and moral red tape aside, the use of Google Glass by NYPD officers out on the beat has the potential to change how police work is done in general, not just in interactions between the law and citizens. The high-speed mobile communications available to a network of Glass wearing officers would allow them to execute tactics quickly and quietly while carrying less gear than is currently needed. Live streaming video can be sent to headquarters to keep a close eye on officers in dangerous situations, backup or medical help can be sent at the drop of a hat with no lag after the emergency occurs. If Google Glass comes to NYPD patrols after they complete their field testing of the device and find a use for it, the effect will depend more on how the department decides to use the extra information they gather, rather than how the information was gathered in the first place. But looking at current precedents, the NYPD may open a can of worms allowing lawyers to exploit fine print loop holes to clear those convicted on Glass evidence.
By Daniel O’Brien