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Facebook Ray-Ban Stories: An ethical dilemma [Opinion]

Image: Ray-Ban
2 minute read
Image: Ray-Ban

Recently Ray-Ban and Facebook launched their Stories series of glasses, and the creepiness level could just hit 11.

I love new tech. I often love new tech when those around me, and in the comments section of RedShark, are telling me I need to get a room. But Facebook's new Ray-Ban produced Stories glasses have unnerved me.

The trouble with smart-glasses is that they are coming, whether we want them to or not, and they do throw up some difficult ethical questions. There are actually some very cool things that they could do in the future, such as realtime navigation via augmented reality. As artificial intelligence gets better, and ultra fast 5G and beyond connectivity becomes reality, they could also perform some very creepy operations. For example reading people's body language, telling you if someone is lying or not, or in the case of law enforcement, as we've seen with experiments in China, whether you are somebody that could be of interest to the State.

Some of these things can sound at first like great ideas. After all, why wouldn't you want the police to be able to identify criminals readily? But it's the misuse of such technology that is the problem.

In the case of the Ray-Ban Stories glasses, the idea is not so much that they are smart-glasses as such, but that they allow the user to take photos or video and make phone calls in what I think I could fairly describe as an 'stealthy' way.

Discreet camera

The cameras on the glasses are discreetly positioned in the frame. There is an LED that lights up to alert people around the user that a photograph or video is being taken, but it is very small, and it is doubtful that in a crown of people on a sunny day, you would see it easily.

Am I overreacting? After all, smartphones are used all the time to take photos discreetly. The difference here is just how stealthily images can be taken, and that it is directly interfacing with, well, Facebook. I'll leave you to your own wit as to what you think of the company's track record concerning privacy and data use.

It's a difficult subject for me, because I love the idea of integrating technology into something that is compact, streamlined, and incredibly accessible to use. And as I mentioned earlier, truly smart-glasses are coming. The ethical questions about such technology does put the practicality of them in question, however.

For example, if manufacturers plastered them in bright red flashing lights when they are recording, it's possible that not many people would want to use them. Similarly, if they were designed to stand out more in appearance, as Google did with its own take on smart glasses, it can put off users who don't want to draw attention to themselves.

It's not an easy problem to solve, but getting the balance right will be incredibly important.

Tags: Technology VR & AR Opinion