Wearable Technology or Computing

In recent years, every aspect of our lives has become dominated by technology—and now people are beginning to wear their technology. For example, Google has released Google Glass, a wearable computer in the form of glasses. Samsung has released the Galaxy Gear smart watch, a device that one wears as a watch and functions as a phone. This new technology is creating a class of its own—“wearable technology” or “wearable computing.”  By utilizing this technology, a person can walk on the street wearing glasses or a watch while recording the images and sounds around him. Are you concerned with being recorded without notice? Do you want a person to be able to gather your personal information in an instant with facial recognition software? If these issues concern you, then wearable computing is relevant to your privacy rights.

What is Wearable Computing?

Wearable computing describes a class of computer-powered devices that can be worn by a user. There are many kinds of wearable computing devices, and some raise few concerns because they are as simple as a step counter or a heart rate monitor. Other devices can perform the same functions as a smartphone, but in a much more discrete manner. The more advanced wearable devices can take pictures, record video and sound, and respond to voice commands to read text messages, emails, and surf the web. Probably the most well-known and discussed technology, Google Glass, has been subject to criticism. If someone wears a Google Glass and looks at you, your first thought might be that you are being recorded or investigated.  In fact, some restaurants and bars in San Francisco have already banned this device because of their customers’ privacy concerns. Even with the concerns over privacy, this technology is likely to become even more pervasive.

What are the Legal Issues Associated With Wearable Technology?

Facial recognition software raises one of the most important privacy concerns. Apps such as NameTag can match a person’s picture against a database to gather personal information. If a device like Google Glass has an app like this installed, then a user could obtain another person’s information quickly.   However, the one thing the average person has on his side is that these databases still need to be created.  Facebook and Twitter already manage massive databases of personal information and they are required to work with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to conform to its privacy policies. It is possible that NameTag would also be required to cooperate with the FTC. What about wearing these devices while driving? In California, Vehicle Code Section 27602 makes it illegal to drive while operating a video screen except for GPS and navigation systems. A device like Google Glass would fall into this category. But, is it not safer to drive with a hands-free, voice-controlled device like Google Glass than looking down at a navigation map or smartphone for directions? In general, state laws are not up-to-date when it comes to new technologies.

You may contact us to speak to an attorney about how wearable technology and computing may affect your privacy rights.