Friday, April 4, 2014

Google Glass: Privacy Concerns (2013)

Google Company logo

Google Glass is a new product developed by Google Inc. that has erupted in controversy for the past year it has been on the market. Google Glass is the first ubiquitous computer on the market meaning this is the first computer completely accessible and useable without the use of hands. The advanced topic of computing called Ubiquitous computing is “where computing is made to appear everywhere and anywhere” (Wikipedia). This product has welcomed its customers into a new era of computing and not only has revolutionized the way work and computing has been done, but has created some controversy for those who do decide to go for the way of the future. Glass has seen its fair share of controversies since its released circulating around the idea that those who are not using the product are incapable of seeing what the user is doing with the product. Examples range from taking picture of unsuspecting people or taking videos of unsuspecting people.
While there are many other issues pertaining to the privacy of those without such technology, there are controversies for those with this product as well. Discrimination towards those who spent their money to buy this product has shown up everywhere. Place such as banks, movie theaters, concert venues, cars, classrooms, casinos all have banned this product. While some of these make sense like the car and the classrooms, others do not quite make sense. Think of it as not being able to use a smart phone in any place but your own home. This does not make a smart phone to useful, in fact, a computer would probably make more sense at that point.
Studies have been conducted and Yahoo wrote an article with reactions of people around those who have worn Google Glass. “College student: “I got booed out of a club at Harvard.” , “Computer scientist mom with a toddler on her hip: “A manager at a Trader Joe’s asked me to take it off because they didn’t allow cameras in the store.” And, “IT manager who implemented Glass for his logistics team: “After work we were sitting around in the conference room, and people told me to take it off because it annoyed them”” (Becky Worley). So is that it for Google Glass? Will Google Glass never be accepted in a society that is dominated by a world by smart phones? It is all a matter of time some believe while other do truly believe that this is a product that should not exist. “If you’re a wearer of Glass, it’s on your face. When you’re talking to someone with Glass, it’s in your face. The wearer is having the experience, but the Glass physically comes between him and me. I fully accept that wearable computing is coming, and while Google Glass is an awesome tool, it is ultimately too creepy and socially awkward to gain 
mass adoption in everyday life”  (Worley).
Google Glass advertisement photo
Though it may seem that this new wave of technology will never be allowed anywhere, places are starting rethink it as well as find a meaningful purpose for it. One recent article has shown Google Glass being used appropriately in the hospital. “People who must undergo biopsies, or some types of CT or MRI scans, may find this medical treatment nerve-racking. Aside from the discomfort of being poked and prodded, there’s the stress of being diagnosed or treated for a serious disease. But video glasses, like Google Glass, can help calm these patients down, according to a new study” (Jesse Emspak) An experiment was then studied with one group of patients receiving the Glass while the other half did not. Those who had the Glass had lower anxiety during their stay in the hospital. These patients were given videos like "National Geographic types of clips, stuff like ‘March of the Penguins’ — that one was popular — and Disney movies" one women said. (Emspak)
This all matters because it shows the controversy of this product. The good and bad offset each other and really boils down the whether or not this product will be socially acceptable in time. For Google, this is an ethical controversy because it has to keep its customers in mind while keeping those affected by those who wear Google Glass. Fortunately for Google, the stakeholders are not affected by this controversy. In fact, Google has received so much publicity for these glasses that the company has grown. Google remains as one of the most powerful businesses in the world and has successfully developed this piece of technology that will usher in a new way of how people go about their daily business. 

Individualism is an ethical theory by Milton Friedman. Milton Friedman is considered one of the most important economists of the twentieth century because of this theory and his other work. Friedman states "The only goal of business is to profit, so the only obligation that the business person has is to maximize profit for the owner or the stockholders" Google has always known to profit from everything they do. Their search engine is the most popular one of the many out there and is probably the search engine you used to find your ethical case. Google could stop production of this product for the sake of those who feel violated by it. Privacy has been the concern of many but for Google to completely call of this product would be asinine. This product could be the way of the future and has sold more than 8000 units. (Worley) Google is in fact following the ethical theory of Friedman because the company is doing what it should to maximize its profits and to make their stakeholders feel secure in that company.

Google's CEO, Larry Page, demonstrating Google Glass

Utilitarianism is the modern day approach to ethics and is defined as "an ethical tradition that directs to make decisions based on the overall consequences of our acts" (24 DesJardins). Also Utilitarianism is identified with the policy of "maximizing the overall good" or "the greatest good for the greatest number" (27). Google does not quite follow this ethical case because they produce this product despite the invasion of privacy of others. This does not maximize the overall good because people are still being deprived of their privacy and comfort while those who do wear it are being discriminated against and not allowed into some places with the product on them. So who is exactly winning here? The ethical solution to this would be to stop production of this product but for Google, this is just implausible. For Google, to completely halt production of this item would be a huge loss for the business in time and money but also a huge waste for technology lovers everywhere. This could be a decision similar to if Apple was forced to stop production of something like its Iphone. This would have stopped production of the smart phone industry completely changing the world.

The Kantian Theory states that "our fundamental ethical duty is to treat people with respect, to treat them as equally capable of living an autonomous life. But since each person has this same fundamental duty towards each others, each of us can be said to have the rights to be treated with respect, the right to be treated as an end and never as a means only" (DesJardins, 38). Google is compliant with this theory because Google is attempting to make people’s lives easier with this product. This is a hand free device that people can use with their voices and eye movements. People no longer have to look down and do their works on their smart phones, instead, look into their glasses and do everything they would normally on their laptop. Google releases this product for people to do their work. It is not Google’s intention for people to use this product in such ways that’s affect how people feel around those who wear it. So does Google treat everyone with respect? I believe so because Google has released this product to be the first Ubiquitous computer and has succeeded with this.

Virtue Theory
A common sign seen banning Google Glass from premises
Lastly, the "Virtue Theory is based on Aristotle's Ethics" (Salazar). The four primary virtues in the theory are "courage, honesty, temperance, and justice" (Salazar). Courage is defined in this theory by "risk-taking and willingness to take a stand for the right ideas and actions" (Salazar). Developing this type of technology and being the first to do so is by far the most risky thing a business can do. The product can fail and cost the entire company or, Google Glass could be the next big thing. Google Inc. definitely had the courage and willingness to make this product and has the right idea by producing such technology. Ubiquitous computing is the next era of computers and someone had to be the first to release it. The next virtue, honesty, is defined as "in agreements, hiring and treatment of employees, customers and other companies" (Salazar). Google Glass employees have been treated fairly and their customers have been treated fairly by the company itself. Temperance, the next virtue is defined as "reasonable expectations and desires". (Salazar). Google and the rest of the tech wizards out there expect ubiquitous computers to be the next big thing. These are the expectations and desires of Google. These are reasonable, but society at this moment is not allowing this product to take off like the smart phone did. Lastly, justice can be defined as "hard work, quality products, good ideas, fair practices" (Salazar). Google put in hard work developing this technology and for the price, it’s a quality product. It is safe to say that Google followed the Virtue theory as well as the company could for such a controversial piece of new technology.

Works Cited

Emspak, Jesse . "Study: Google Glass Can Calm Patients During Surgery." Study: Google Glass Can Calm Patients During Surgery. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Apr. 2014. <>.

"Ubiquitous computing." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Mar. 2014. Web. 4 Apr. 2014. <>.

Worley, Becky. "Why Google Glass Will Never Be Okay." Why Google Glass Will Never Be Okay. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Apr. 2014. <>.

DesJardins, Joseph R. "Ethical Theory and Business." An Introduction to Business Ethics. 5th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2014. 38-41. Print.

Salazar, Heather. “Kantian Business Ethics,” in Business in Ethical Focus, ed. Fritz Allhoff and Anand J. Vaidya (Broadview Press, 2008).

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