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Vint Cerf: Social conventions have not kept up with technology

Speaking of Glass, Google's chief Internet evangelist predicted, "It may be we will have to experience some damage before we discover what the social conventions are."

Google Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf.
Dan Farber

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. -- Echoing comments from other Google executives, Vint Cerf acknowledged that Google Glass, as well as other mobile devices, come with unresolved privacy issues. "We have a problem with these technologies. Our social conventions have not kept up with the technology," Cerf said, speaking at the Future in Review conference here.

He gave an example of someone standing in front of the Egyptian pyramids and asking a stranger to take his picture. Someone standing nearby is caught in the picture, which is uploaded to a photo-sharing Web site and made publicly available. Someone else searching for pyramids online sees the person who is not the subject of the image in the photo and tags that person. It turns out that person who didn't know his picture was taken told a significant other that he was hard at work in another location, not in Egypt enjoying the pyramids and who knows what else. Uh oh.

"It may be we will have to experience some damage before we discover what the social conventions are," Cerf, Google's chief Internet evangelist and one of the fathers of the Internet, concluded. "We are going to be immersed in this sea of information, and it will have two sides to it -- tremendous benefits and a society that is increasingly transparent."

Last month in an interview with the BBC, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt stated, "The fact of the matter is we'll have to develop some new social etiquette. It's obviously not appropriate to wear these glasses in situations where recording is not correct, and indeed you have this problem already with phones. Companies like Google have a very important responsibility to keep your information safe. You have responsibility as well to understand what you are doing and how you are doing it and obey appropriately and also keep everything up to date."