We might rationalize that mass surveillance is for the greater good, but, at the same time, a network of surveillance cameras put in place to spot crimes we didn’t commit can feel invasive. If you own Google Glass, though, you can do something about it.
A third party Google Glass app, Watch Your Privacy, allows you to see a real-time visualization of what security cameras are looking at in your field of vision. The app allows you to set your own definition of a red unsafe zone and green safe zone. (Some may deem areas under surveillance safe, while others can have the opposite reaction.)
How does it work?
Developed by Dutch artist Sander Veenhof, the app uses augmented reality software Layar and open data about security cameras to inform you of nearby surveillance. “The app makes use of a subset of the Open Street Map data, using the export and mapping structure of OSMcamera,” says Sander.
When you download the app, it sends your GPS coordinates to fellow app users. That way, you can pinpoint their locations too, in case you want to meet them or avoid them. “The ‘Glasshole’ data is obtained by instantly registering and updating the latitude/longitude coordinates of each Google Glass user using this app,” continues Sander.
The app marks both cameras and users with triangular warning signs — how far they are from you and their coordinates. It also indicates the approximate area covered by the camera. Watch Your Privacy uses red, green, and yellow to spotlight areas cameras could be watching, outing them dramatically.
How accurate is the app?
The app might not be entirely accurate. It showed just one surveillance camera in New York City, which can’t possibly be the case. That could be caused by limits on the user-generated content available to the app.
Still, using Google Glass, which itself has been accused of violating privacy, to out other privacy violators, is a deliciously ironic twist. “Once a person has been identified to a stranger, he or she cannot be un-identified after the fact,” says the Federal Trade Commission. “A consumer’s face is a persistent identifier that cannot be changed in the way that a consumer could get a new credit card number or delete a tracking cookie.”
As tracking technology becomes more sophisticated and anti-tracking technology develops to keep up, it remains to be seen which of the two will win the race.