Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Facebook and Ray-Ban Collaborated on Some ‘Smart’ Glasses

Facebook:

Today we’re excited to launch Ray-Ban Stories: Smart glasses that give you an authentic way to capture photos and video, share your adventures, and listen to music or take phone calls — so you can stay present with friends, family, and the world around you. Starting at $299 USD and available in 20 style combinations, the smart glasses are available for purchase online and in select retail stores in the US as well as Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, and the UK.

Katie Notopoulos reviewed them for Buzzfeed News:

To make it clear to bystanders that you’re taking a video with your camera glasses, there’s a small white LED light in the frame corner that lights up whenever the camera is on. However, the tiny light is far less obvious than Snapchat’s version, which had a larger swirling light ring while filming.

Although you can’t turn off the light on the glasses or through the app, I was able to do this the old fashion way: I put a tiny piece of masking tape over the LED light and colored the tape black with a Sharpie. It covered it up perfectly.

[…]

Alex Himel, VP of AR at Facebook Reality Labs, informed me over a Zoom chat that taping over the LED light was a violation of the terms of service of the glasses, which prohibit tampering with the device. Be warned.

I love the idea that the terms of service are a law or some kind of incantation that Facebook can recite to prevent people from doing obviously creepy things with these glasses.

Notopoulos reports that Facebook added the LED That Must Not Be Covered on the advice of privacy advocates. Apparently, this was not a thought that had independently occurred to those developing the product. Facebook is not a company that values privacy, and its internal culture reflects that.

Facebook launched a dedicated site that more-or-less acknowledges these risks by pleading with users to “wear [their] smart glasses responsibly” and turn them off in locker rooms and doctor’s offices. Maybe there is a certain amount of personal responsibility here, but maybe there is some corporate responsibility as well. For all of the benefits these kinds of glasses may create, they also make the world creepier for anyone who is not using them. Just because a camera can now fit into the frame of a pair of Wayfarers, that does not mean it should. I know that you can buy spy glasses, but there is a big difference when a corporate giant markets them as a headphone-like everyday gadget. This recontextualizes them in a way that denudes their invasive properties, and transforms them from an illicit-like purchase into something more socially acceptable.

All Facebook had to do was not include a camera.