Wearable Technology, Wearable “Surveillance”

A Google Glass User. Posted to Wikimedia Commons Loic Le Meur

Technological advances have given rise to “wearable technology,” which includes small, lightweight devices that can be attached to clothes or worn. An example is one of Google’s newer products, Google Glass, which displays information from smartphones on a pair of glasses.

This technology is the wave of the future, but it comes with serious ethical dilemmas and potential problems.

Is it worth the technological advancement?

Firstly, there are the obvious dangers that come from misuse. We are constantly reminded of the dangers of being on our smartphones while driving and walking. Even blue-tooth and hands-free devices can be a dangerous distraction. Devices like Google Glass place the distractions directly in front of the driver’s eyes.

Of course, there is a fair amount of personal responsibility involved; turning off and removing the devices should be common sense, just like not texting and driving should be common sense. Even if most wearable technology users are responsible and put their devices away, there will always be irresponsible users who not only put themselves in danger, but others as well. We’ve seen this with all kinds of technology- cars, cellphones, even popular mobile games (looking at you, Pokemon GO.)

There’s also a more insidious danger- surveillance. Some wearable technology collects information not just about the user’s surroundings, but the user themselves. It can keep track of vital signs and patterns of behavior. This information might be shared with or even owned by third parties.

One possible fear is that the information could be passed along to the government. The more likely scenario is that it would be passed along to businesses, essentially giving them access to vast amounts of information about consumers that could then be used in targeted advertising.

The dangers of this technology are clear enough, but do the dangers really warrant limiting it or shutting it down altogether?  If we stopped developing or banned new technology just because of its potential dangers, we’d likely still be living in the Stone Age.

After all, we haven’t outlawed cars, cellphones, or mobile games. We have laws restricting their use and punishment for misuse (traffic tickets, violations, etc.)

Maybe the solution is not to fear this technology, but to teach people to use it wisely- and regulate it when they don’t.


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