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What the Tech: Facebook’s smart glasses are cool but creepy

They might be better looking than Google Glass, but Facebook’s new Ray-Ban sunglasses still leave much to be desired when it comes to privacy.

Remember back when Google Glass was a thing? In 2014 its arrival to the scene made it seem as if the world was suddenly about to be taken over by figures like Agent Smith from The Matrix; thousands of menacing characters sporting shaded glasses and seemingly with unlimited information at their disposal would surely descend upon us all.

The very idea of being filmed without your consent or even your realisation, understandably filled people with dread and seemed like a gift to predators.

But Google forgot one very important thing wrong; if you’re making a device that has to be worn, you’ve got to make sure people actually want to wear it. Google Glass simply looked ghastly. I’d sooner rock the dreaded socks-and-crocs combo than be seen with that hideous headband on. It’s no wonder that such an eyesore never became popular eyewear, and we can be thankful for that.

With the launch of its new smart Ray-Ban sunglasses, Facebook learned one important lesson from the Google Glass debacle, but unsurprisingly it wasn’t the one about respecting others’ privacy.

It’s hard to deny (albeit begrudgingly) that they actually look great, being nearly indistinguishable from the brand’s classic designer sunglasses. Even if you thought you’d only treat yourself to your first pair of Ray-Bans when you’d reached retirement age, in order to peer over them disapprovingly at the whipper-snappers on your lawn, you still might be tempted by these chic specs.

The onboard tech seems to work well too, responding to voice and touch controls in order to film when you want, with only a tiny dim white light illuminating when the device is recording.

But where Google Glass failed miserably by being too ugly (no hard feelings guys — I know exactly how that feels), Facebook’s Ray-Bans deserve to fail for being too stylish and too subtle.

You see, despite what Hollywood would have you believe, not all unseemly characters wear coke-bottle lensed spectacles above their ill-kempt moustaches, signalling their bad intentions from several miles away; the problem is of course that by blending in so well, the issue of being filmed against your consent or unawares becomes even more pertinent than it ever was before.

Mark Zuckerberg may have achieved the seemingly impossible by being associated with something widely regarded as “cool”, but when it comes to privacy it seems like Facebook is being just as shady as ever.

 

 

 

 

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