UPDATE #3: Through our source, we’ve received an Official Statement from authorities (below) and are in the process of following up:
“On Jan. 18, special agents with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and local authorities briefly interviewed a man suspected of using an electronic recording device to record a film at an AMC theater in Columbus. The man, who voluntarily answered questions, confirmed to authorities that the suspected recording device was also a pair of prescription eye glasses in which the recording function had been inactive. No further action was taken.”
Love it or hate it, Google Glass has been the cause for a lot of excitement lately. Last week it was pronounced legal to wear but not use while driving in the state of California. Shortly after, Glass was making waves again with the launch of an app called “Sex with Glass“, allowing participants to essentially create their own sex tapes with the facial tech. Apparently, the FBI felt left out of all the fun.
At an AMC theater in Easton Mall in Columbus, Ohio, one Google Glass Explorer went to see Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, but got a rude awakening instead. An hour into the movie he was approached by a federal agent who, without hesitation, snatched the Google Glass off the man’s face and removed him from the theater.
Outside there were 5 to 10 officers and agents who proceeded to allegedly badger and question him for over 3 hours, suggesting he was illegally recording the movie. Let’s get a few facts out of the way:
- It’s probably not smart to bring a recording device into a movie theater, but let’s not forget mostly everyone takes a mobile phone into a theater that is perfectly capable of recording
- The man’s Google Glass were the prescription version, so he essentially needed them on to see the movie (maybe he should have worn other glasses)
- The man had his Google Glass powered off in advance to avoid any misunderstandings
The authorities eventually let the man go, but not without hours of intimidation and a frightening story that has him shaking – literally – even a day after the event. A Movie Association representative compensated the Glass Explorer with 2 free movie tickets for his night of troubles.
The authorities certainly have the right to remove a patron from the theater suspected of recording the screen, but should wearing Google Glass be suspicion enough? The Explorer cooperated with the authorities, but considering his rights and his innocence, would you have acted differently or pursued a better outcome?
As Google Glass and other wearable tech become more prevalent, you can bet we’ll hear a lot more of these stories popping up across the world.
UPDATE: We’ve been in touch with the subject of this story and received some additional information, shared below, although the man has asked to remain anonymous.
Asked whether or not his Google Glass were damaged in the process:
My glasses were not damaged. After I explained to them how much they cost, they touched them in a gentler way. The only rough part was when they took them off my face in the theater.
Asked how other movie-goers reacted:
People around me were all looking in my direction. Being dark in the theatre, I didn’t see how the other people react. And it happened rather fast. I followed my glasses – I wouldn’t let somebody just take them and leave without me following.
Asked if he could confirm the identities and/or organization of the officers:
I didn’t get the contact information for the officers. I was too shaken to remember the names, and I didn’t ask for business cards. The IDs they showed me looked legit – but what do I know?
The guy that said he represented the Movie Association gave me his business card, which I photographed with my phone and gave back, as I do with all business cards that are given to me (I am very good at losing little pieces of paper). I wrote him an email today (EMAIL ADDRESS REDACTED) asking him for the names of the federal agents and he didn’t reply
I also tried a different avenue. Until April of last year I worked at (REDACTED) where I have been in contact with an
agent from the bureau from the internet crimes division (NAME REDACTED), and I asked him to help me find out his colleagues names. He asked me so far if I am sure they were the FBI, or maybe DHS, Columbus PD or RIAA, and all I could do was to describe their IDs (they looked white with two horizontal light blue stripes on them).
I expect (REDACTED) will help me, and when I find their names I will probably file a complaint with their supervisors. My wife told me that while I was in the room with the two officers, she was in another room where nobody paid any attention to her and a long-haired guy that apparently was in the movie theater with us was talking to two cops about how is it to
be “under cover”.
From what (REDACTED) said, they were having known issues on that theatre, and they had suspicions there would be attempts to pirate that particular movie. Columbus is not a big city, and I think it was about an hour after the movie started until they snatched me out.
Asked why he didn’t wear regular glasses that day:
After I got my prescription lens for Glass, I wore Google Glass exclusively, including at the movies. As the prior couple of times there was no issue with me wearing glass at the very same movie theater, I didn’t even think about wearing my old pair of glasses to the movie, and I didn’t have my old glasses with me.
I always carry an “emergency pair” in my car, but the car was in the parking lot. So the short answer is no, i didn’t consider wearing regular glasses.
Asked if this experience will change the way he wears Glass or handles authorities that approach him about the use of Glass:
This experience doesn’t change the way I wear Glass. I will just have another pair with me when I am going to the movies.
In the event somebody else shoves a badge in my face in the future (not in a traffic situation), my plan is to say “lawyer” and then nothing else. If I am in a traffic situation I plan to just be polite, and if the traffic officer decides to give me a ticket for wearing Glass I plan to fight it in court.
He then insisted he never wanted to make a big deal about this, simply wanting to warn fellow Glass Explorers about his experience and how they might learn from it. He topped it off with a rather interesting observation about the “fear” of new technology and how perceptions change over time:
I still remember the days when people didn’t want to put pictures of themselves on the Internet, and now that’s all there is on the internet.
Don’t forget about all those 6-second Vines and animated GIFs.
The original account of the event can be seen on the-gadgeteer.com.