Google Glass Being Considered by New York Police

Feb 13, 2014

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When the first test versions of Google Glass were shipped to techno-geeks for testing in 2012, there was plenty of speculation as to whether the head-mounted computer devices had any real, practical value.  Now it turns out at least one American police agency thinks some legitimate value might be there. According to various sources, the New York City Police Department now has two Google Glass devices in its possession, actively investigating whether they have any potential for law enforcement applications. The devices were acquired as part of a normal practice of investigating the viability of new technologies. Police spokespersons have not revealed anything about how Google Glass is being looked at for police work.  The department also has not said whether or not the devices have gone with officers on patrol and, if so, whether tests are being confined to a limited number of officers. Should the police agency find some practical use for Glass, significant training would need to be implemented in order to make sure such use does not violate America's due process laws or any number of civil rights laws.  That seems to be a tricky proposition at any level.

Raising Legitimate Concerns

Those keeping a watchful eye on the NY Police Department have raised some legitimate concerns regarding head-mounted computer displays like Google Glass.  Among those concerns are:
  • Privacy – A Google Glass wearer in Seattle, Washington was asked to leave a local restaurant this past December because he refused to remove his Glass device. The restaurant was concerned about customer privacy issues. Those same issues will undoubtedly come up should police officers begin wearing Google Glass devices on patrol. There will simply be no way to know whether officers are surveilling without cause.
  • Distraction – There is much debate over whether or not a head-mounted display could be a distraction when driving.  Knowing what we know about mobile phones in relation to road crashes, it is hard to believe drivers would not be distracted.  Is it smart to have police officers driving patrol vehicles while wearing Glass?
  • Security – The risk of a police issued Google Glass device being misplaced or stolen is rather high when you consider the data available to police officers would become instantly available to whoever possessed the device – at least until an officer could notify someone to lock the device out.  Moreover, while the threat already exists via car-mounted laptop computers, it would be a lot easier to get hold of a head-mounted unit.
We can easily see the potential of the Google Glass device in police work.  It could streamline data communications, give officers greater access to data in the cloud and make some of the routine paperwork tasks more streamlined through automation however the risks associated with the devices seem too unreasonable to take at this time.  Until Google addresses those risks, we do not expect police agencies to adopt the technology for routine use. Sources: 1. 2.     Mail Online –