Hello, tomorrow: Smart tech and accidental espionage

From Google Glass to Kinect to the Goji smart lock, good luck avoiding a new generation of tech products that capture you on the go and at home.

Ross Rubin
Ross Rubin is principal analyst at Reticle Research, where he analyzes the adoption of consumer technology, and also publishes commentary at his blog, Techspressive.com. Previously, Ross was executive director and principal analyst at The NPD Group and vice president and chief research fellow at Jupiter Research.
Ross Rubin
3 min read
Google Glass
Google Glass brings new meaning to the classic phrase, "Here's looking at you, kid." Sarah Tew/CNET

Forget the National Security Agency and other government intelligence bureaus (or so I'm told to tell you by the agent who has been tracking my communications for months and who now stands beside me). One doesn't need a taxpayer-funded agency to maintain a nearly comprehensive and constant library of your visage as you travel near and far. There are, in fact, a number of products and services from both startups and tech giants aimed at capturing your likeness before too long. It could even be someone else's very environs that catches you in the act of living:

Google Glass. The ultimate in geek fashion, the current generation of Google Glass is nothing if not conspicuous, although future generations may be indistinguishable from a pair of Warby Parkers. And you have no one to blame but yourself and your choice of Larry Page-wannabe friends to blame if you are within earshot of the wearer issuing a verbal command to create a photo or video. But at this point, once Glass gets going, it affords no visual cue that it is continuing to record, so in case of a privacy invasion emergency, you may need to break Glass.

Memoto and Autographer. Even if the consumer version of Google Glass eventually costs significantly less than the $1,500 of the current Explorer edition, it will still likely be a luxury item, far more than the $280 Memoto life-blogging camera that is chugging along toward reality. The product's Kickstarter campaign raised more than half a million dollars, but is far behind its schedule that was promised earlier this year. The Memoto works with software that picks out the highlights from the photos it is constantly snapping throughout the day, so there's only a fair chance you'll get caught in its shutter's crossfire. Autographer, another wearable camera that produces "eye level" stills and syncs to your smartphone, is being developed in the U.K. and is expected to be available in November for 400 pounds ($605).

The Goji smart lock knows who you are. Goji

Doorbot and Goji. Say you've had enough of these cyborgs and life-bloggers roaming the streets like so many hungry-for-your-face zombies. Time to seek refuge in the comfortable abode of a trusted friend. Are you out of luck if they're out back? Not if they have a Goji lock. These forthcoming crowdfunded products can send video of who is at the door to the owner's iPhone and allow for remote unlocking (in conjunction with Lockitron in the case of Doorbot).

Kinect. So you've finally made it inside and there's no trace of an IP cam from the likes of Dropcam, Stem Innovation, Netgear, or D-Link. It's been a stressful day and you'd love to kick back with some TV or video games. But the peace of mind quickly fades as your friend activates his Xbox One with a voice command and the TV experience changes based on the system's improved recognition features. Kinect isn't the only product that promises/threatens to bring imagery of your living far beyond your living room: Intel's TV service slated for later this year is said to change the TV experience based on recognizing the viewer.

Social networks. Both these covert and plain-old overt cameras embedded into every phone would have little impact on privacy were it not for users of Facebook, Google+, and the like and their ability to tag faces for potential identification to the connected world.

Of course, I'd be happy to provide a simple way to avoid all this accidental espionage. Just lean in a little toward your Webcam. Oh, and say cheese.