Technology writer Sarah Slocum never thought she would be the target of “hate” and “venom” because she wore Google Glass, a small optical computer that is worn like glasses, while she was patronizing Molotov, a local San Francisco punk bar. At first, the other patrons were fascinated by the technology, some even asked to try it on. However, a few of them freaked out when it was discovered that Slocum had enabled the video function of Google Glass. The events that ensued included verbal assault and theft and Slocum is calling her story “special” claiming that it is the first time someone has been the target of a hate crime against technology for wearing Google Glass.
According to Slocum, she was not initially videotaping patrons, but when one woman flipped her the bird, Slocum retaliated with the threat to video her. When others realized what Slocum was doing, they too began to hurl insults, a bar employee threw some dirty towels and thus what began as a nasty verbal confrontation got even uglier. Several offended patrons attempted physically to block Slocum’s Google Glass view, pushing into her and waving their hands in front of her face. The situation escalated when Slocum’s companion responded to the verbal hostility and potential physical threat by throwing a punch.
Although no one was badly hurt in the confrontation, Slocum’s Google Glass was ripped from her face by one of the bar patrons and while she was in pursuit of the thief, another thief stole her purse and cell phone from the bar. Slocum was able to retrieve the $1,500 high-tech glasses but her other belongings remain missing, so at a minimum, she was the victim of a robbery if not a hate crime.
Slocum posted an accounting of the event on social media, including a brief Google Glass video of the people freaking out at the perceived invasion of their privacy while patronizing a public bar. Her story quickly became the subject of debate on both sides of the privacy issue although she seems to be the only one identifying it as a hate crime, ostensibly against the Google Glass technology.
Some have suggested Slocum provoked the hostility claiming she was deliberately drawing an inordinate amount of attention to herself and that she was insensitive to the requests of bar patrons to take off the Google Glass. Included in the insults hurled at her was the high-tech one calling her a “glasshole.” Others have made the point that people videotape and take photos in public all the time with their cell phones thus, the use of, as Slocum calls it, a computer “cell phone on her head” was nothing out of the ordinary and bar patrons were out of line.
Slocum was apparently quite shocked at the altercation and posted on her Facebook page that she was “frazzled and stressed” because she had been “assaulted and robbed” and because of the magnitude of the response to her story by both the media and “practically everybody she knows.” She is particularly distressed that some are calling her story a media stunt and attacking her for it.
Just as cameras, video cameras and cell phones are, the innovative Google Glass is simply another technological advancement that can be used as a potential tool to invade personal privacy. It may be unrealistic to expect that people who are in public places, but do not necessarily want their behavior made public, are not going to freak out when technology threatens to expose them. Slocum’s theory that her altercation in the bar qualifies as a hate crime against technology may eventually take root. However, at this time she is being both mocked and supported for her role in the event but, given her profession, the name recognition may act in her favor.
By Alana Marie Burke
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