Watching the Google I/O keynote speech last week I half-heartedly expected a repeat of last years action packed Google Glass introduction. Honestly it was sort of a let down when it didn’t happen. Instead, Google focused more on other technologies like their new music offering. This got me thinking…was the downplay of Google Glass a direct result of push-back we have seen from people who think they are somehow being secretly video taped or wonder if the wearer is secretly viewing information about them like their financial state or whether they have been arrested?
Lately we are seeing more and more push-back from people worried about giving up too much of their privacy in exchange for new technology. We are seeing push-back in technology from many different segments. Even Google has had push-back from Google Streetview mapping where people didn’t want houses, addresses, or themselves photographed. Or take the smart grid technology space for example. One key component of smart grid is smart meters. These intelligent meters can provide anonymous (or not) feedback to power companies about your power usage and habits to help both you and the power company better plan for power needs and help be more conservative about using power. Unfortunately the power companies forgot one thing. They forgot to get consumer buy in. Without this, many felt smart meters were another way for both big business or big government to spy on them and use that information to the company or government’s advantage against consumers. All over the world, we are seeing community after community rethinking their smart meter roll out plans or scrapping them altogether. At least until we have consumer buy in or safeguards and privacy policies against misuse that clearly make the consumer feel more at ease.
So what can Google learn from this? People are starting to value privacy more and more. But is the cat already out of the bag with regard to Google. We already give up our email, photos, and web search history to Google. What else doesn’t Google already know about us? Was making Google Glass available to developers before you had won over consumers the right thing to do? I mean, without the developers we wouldn’t have all those cool “free” apps we have downloaded on our Android phones. Humm, just how does that “free” app get paid for anyway? I wonder if anyone thought of putting code in those free apps that could track users and collect data about them. I bet that data would be worth it to someone like…Google. Could the same type of thing be used with Google Glasses, like say face recognition software that could ID you and geocode the photo of you at a certain place and time? Or other information about traffic, what people wear,…think about the information we can now glean from a single photo or video.
I personally don’t think Google has anything like this mind. But I still think Google, or any other company for that matter must win over consumers first
So have we reached the point of consumer pushback where we are no longer willing to give up more privacy in exchange for the latest technology? What do you think?