Google Glass banned in San Francisco bar after concern that users could be violating the privacy of other patrons. The Willows bar is located in a neighbourhood of San Francisco that is experiencing an influx of technology related workers, often with large pay checks, that is causing fear that soon those not earning big tech bucks may be edged out. Although Google Glass eyewear is not currently available to the general public, the concentration of tech professionals who have been granted access to the Google Explorers program and given an early model of the internet glasses is high enough that concerns over the devices audio video and photo recording abilities have reached a boiling point.
Stories have been trickling in about people concerned they are being recorded when someone wearing a Google Glass is near them, sometimes resulting in violent altercations between concerned parties and the Glass user. Management at The Willows decided to ask patrons to remove their Google Glass headsets before entering their bar after word that a woman was tangled in an altercation with customers at another bar when they expressed concern that she was recording them.
In addition, technology journalist Sarah Slocum reported a pair of the high-tech glasses being stolen after wearing them in a punk bar in the Haight-Ahsbury neighbourhood. The glasses are of course an understandable target for thieves because they are still rare, and very expensive at $1,500 a pair. Now that Google Glass is banned in San Francisco bar The Willows, will the friction between people who do and do not own a pair of Google Glasses taper off or increase?
Google Glass was introduced last year as a prototype wearable computer. Users can access the internet at any time by touching the side of the headset or with voice commands. Although the recording features are always available, those who are familiar with the device are quick to point out that they are not always active. Having owned a pair since April, blogger Robert Scoble had this to say “With my Google Glass, I have to stand next to you and look at you. And then I have to either touch my glasses or say ‘Google Glass, take a picture.'” In other words, if someone is recording you with their Google Glass, chances are you will be aware of it.
Although everyone has the right to privacy, there is concern that the poor reception Google Glass is receiving has less to do with the device itself and more to do with the way San Francisco neighbourhoods are changing as more technology start-ups move into the area and traditional jobs become more displaced. Many are worried that as well paid technology sector workers move into an area, prices of homes and goods will skyrocket until those earning a lower wage will be forced to move elsewhere. With Google Glass banned in one San Francisco bar, it is only a matter of time before the two groups come to an agreement that makes everyone happy, or only one group will be able to stay in the area.
By Daniel O’Brien
The Wichita Eagle