News / Vancouver

Forgetfulness using Google Glass raises privacy concerns, says UBC researcher

Privacy concerns over Google Glass may be well founded, suggests the latest study from the University of B.C. that found those who use the wearable technology quickly forget they’re recording what they see.

The forgetfulness sets in so quickly, in fact, that people often forget they’re using smart eyewear less than 10 minutes after putting it on, said UBC PhD student Eleni Nasiopoulos who had study participants wear an eye-tracking device similar to Google Glass that recorded their eye movements and field of view.

Soon after putting on the device, Nasiopoulos said the participants were caught looking at a Sports Illustrated calendar featuring a photo of a buxom model.

“We were really surprised to find it took less than 10 minutes,” Nasiopoulos told Metro. “Obviously that has a lot of implications for privacy.”

 A UBC study suggests people quickly forget they're wearing smart eyewear technology soon after putting on the device.

A UBC study suggests people quickly forget they're wearing smart eyewear technology soon after putting on the device.

Glass is Google’s much-anticipated computerized eyewear that connects wirelessly to a smart phone for hands-free web access, navigation and even gaming.

Since the product launched in May, however, the tech giant has battled allegations Google Glass could invade people’s privacy, even publishing a list of myths about the device in an attempt to dispel concerns.

Nasiopoulos said public concerns over privacy invasion may be justifiable, however, given her study’s findings. The research is especially worrying, she said, considering the power of Google Glass to quickly post and disseminate information on social media.

“People can forget,” she said. “Maybe Google needs to think about that and create ways that they can remind people.”

In her study, Nasiopoulos also included two control groups to capture the participant’s natural behaviour without wearing an eye tracker.

Realizing that participants would be guarded about what they looked at if they knew they were being recorded, she gave them a five-minute task to complete as a distraction. Still, Nasiopoulos said she was surprised participants forgot they were being recorded in less than 10 minutes before they were caught looking at the sexy calendar in the room.

When participants were reminded they were wearing eye trackers, Nasiopoulos said they quickly reverted back to guarding what they looked at.

“The problem is, we don’t know how long that lasts,” she said. “Likely, we’re going to get the same effect that people are just going to start to forget again after a few minutes.”

Nasiopoulos' research was published in the July issue of the British Journal of Psychology.

More on