Jul 23rd, 2013

Now that Google Glass has been roaming the world’s streets in larger numbers for a few months, the privacy debates have cooled off. I’m here to heat them back up, instigated by a bar’s Glass banning publicity stunt. If it was publicity you were seeking, 5 Point Cafe in Seattle, consider your efforts a success. But consider everything else a failure.


In March, The 5 Point Cafe went on the record by announcing they’ve banned Google Glass from their establishment. I’m fine with that. They’re a private business and should be able to make their own rules. Do I think the rule is mostly dumb and shortsighted? For sure, but dumb people are free to be dumb, an unfortunate consequence of freedom.

I understand there are two extreme schools of thought on the privacy debate, and while I understand both sides, I typically fall into the “if you’re not doing anything wrong you shouldn’t have anything to worry about” category.

The 5 Point Cafe has lots to worry about.

The bar’s slogan is “alcoholics serving alcoholics since 1929” and their Facebook page invites people to drink with them from 9AM to 2AM, showing what I can only assume are their typical patrons enjoying a day of fun.

5 Point Cafe

Ah, okay, now I can begin to understand why you would want to ban Google Glass at all costs. Probably scared of lawsuits. I’d be scared, too.

It’s a dive bar. I’m from Baltimore. I get it. We’ve got plenty. There’s an edge and attitude that somehow infer a feeling of both standoffishness and charm. But from the reviews I’ve read on Yelp and this latest stunt, I’d say they’re trying a bit too hard to be cool, and that’s the exact opposite of what dive bars are about.

Google Glass has more than its fair share of haters and detractors. Some people think they look idiotic. Others think they don’t serve enough purpose. But in many cases I think the “Glasshole” movement has become one big uninformed bandwagon of trolls looking for attention. Kids trying to impress their classmates. Hipsters being anti-establishment for the sake of being anti-establishment. Because it’s cool. They think.

If you don’t like them, don’t wear them. If you don’t want them in your restaurant or bar, fine, ban them. But please, don’t embarrass yourself by bragging about it.

Google Glass Ban

Now let’s step back and clear some things up for restaurants, bars, and other places of business who want to ban Google Glass. This is especially true for those who are banning it to protect the privacy of their patrons:

  1. When Glass is recording, the screen is on, so you’re able to visibly tell if someone is likely using Google Glass to record.
  2. To take a picture or begin recording with Glass, you must give an audible command or press a button on the top right of Glass. This is much more obvious than the equal action with a smartphone.
  3. Because Glass is affixed to your face, you’re only able to record in the direction your face is pointed, making the general subject/composition of your picture or video pretty obvious. With a smartphone, you can hide, mask, or point the device in any direction, making subtle picture taking much easier.

Smartphones are already more capable of sneakily capturing pictures and video unbeknownst to their subjects, but Google Glass takes the privacy backlash. Because, well, banning smartphones would be absurd… but it’s not much different.

From a business perspective, I can understand why a bar owner would want to ban recording devices. As if bar owners don’t have enough to deal with, openly inviting drunk people to record videos is asking for lawsuits. I’ve been to bars where the owner discreetly asked smartphone users to stop recording video. If they continue, they ask the patron to leave or confiscate their phone until they’re ready to leave. Cool, no problem. It should be the same with Glass.

Now that we’ve had some time to let the Google Glass privacy debate marinate, where do you stand on the matter? Should bars typically allow Glass, only asking patrons to remove them if they’re obviously recording in an abusive manner? Should bars expect patrons to remove glass on entry? Or should they accept the approaching omnipresence of technology and just live with it?

If you haven’t already, check out our full Google Glass Review.

stars Further Reading