Should Small Businesses Fear Google Glass?

by Ellen Lee on June 7, 2013
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Google Glass isn’t expected to be publicly available until at least the end of the year, but small-business owners are already considering the privacy implications and technological potential of the tiny wearable computer.

The internet-connected device, which you don like a pair of eyeglasses, lets users take photos and videos and access information, such as the weather report and driving directions, with a voice command, all with no need to look down at a cell phone screen.

In May, Google Glass was a big draw for developers attending the annual Google I/O conference. The company has already started to shipping them to select techies who requested (and paid $1,500 for) a pair.

But the product is already under public scrutiny. Eight members of U.S. Congress recently sent a letter to Google CEO Larry Page asking how the company plans to protect people’s privacy. Because there’s no need to point and click a camera, wearers may shoot photos and videos surreptitiously.

For that reason, some private businesses are taking steps to keep Google Glass off their premises.

The 5 Point Cafe drew attention in March, when owner Dave Meinert declared that the Seattle restaurant-bar would be the first place of business to ban Google Glass. His website asks the headset’s future users to “respect our customers privacy as we’d expect them to respect yours.”

As Meinert explains to MyNorthwest.com, “Part of this is a joke, to be funny on Facebook and get a reaction, but part of it is serious, because we don’t let people film other people or take photos unwanted of other people in the bar, because it’s kind of a private place people go.”

What happens in Las Vegas will also stay in Las Vegas, according to Caesars Palace. A Caesars Palace spokesman tells the New York Times that people won’t be allowed to wear Google Glasses inside its properties, in accordance with its rules against using computers and recording devices at casinos and theaters. Some movie theaters and strip clubs have also said they have the same plans.

Is it premature for businesses to dismiss wearable computers outright?

In a statement, Google says, “We are thinking very carefully about how we design Glass, because new technology always raises new issues. Our Glass Explorer program, which reaches people from all walks of life, will ensure that our users become active participants in shaping the future of this technology — and we’re excited to hear the feedback.”

Meanwhile, developers are busy dreaming up how Google Glass could be used. The Times introduced an app that displays the latest news headlines. Another app called MedRefGlass could help doctors identify patients and access secure medical information about them.

In the future, the headset could also help consumers as they go shopping, making it easy for them to consult product reviews and make price comparisons. Consumers who have their bank account or credit card synced with Google might also use Google Glass at the cash register to pay for a purchase, no wallet or smartphone needed.

They could also help busy entrepreneurs, with productivity apps that could make it faster and easier to, say, check messages and access business records and databases from anywhere. The bottom line: Stay tuned for more Google Glass updates before casting judgment.

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