Facebook Says It Violates The Terms Of Service Of Their New Snoopervision Glasses If You Cover The 'I'm Recording You' LED

from the like-that'll-work dept

You've likely heard by now that Facebook has launched their own version of sunglasses with a built-in camera, in partnership with Ray Ban, called "Ray Ban Stories" (because, seriously, which brand is cooler right now? Facebook? Or Ray Ban?). Lots of people are comparing it to the failed disaster that was Google Glass (which gave rise to the term "Glassholes") or SnapChat's similar product, and lots of people are calling out the potential privacy issues associated with these snoopervision glasses. To be honest, personally I feel like at least some of those concerns are typical moral panics, akin to people freaking out when the camera itself was invented, such as this story about early Kodak cameras:

The appearance of Eastman's cameras was so sudden and so pervasive that the reaction in some quarters was fear. A figure called the "camera fiend" began to appear at beach resorts, prowling the premises until he could catch female bathers unawares. One resort felt the trend so heavily that it posted a notice: "PEOPLE ARE FORBIDDEN TO USE THEIR KODAKS ON THE BEACH." Other locations were no safer. For a time, Kodak cameras were banned from the Washington Monument. The "Hartford Courant" sounded the alarm as well, declaring that "the sedate citizen can't indulge in any hilariousness without the risk of being caught in the act and having his photograph passed around among his Sunday School children."

And, frankly, if someone wants to record people surreptitiously, there are tons of ways to do so today already that are a lot easier (and often a lot cheaper) than an ugly pair of sun glasses. I think the bigger issue in the long run is going to be coming up with a new set of social norms and social cues for what is and what is not appropriate here. But that's a debate for another day.

What amazes me about the rollout of Facebook's glasses is that they seem to think that they can stop people from covering the LED light that goes on when you're recording... by claiming that it's a terms of service violation. That's what a Facebook VP told Buzzfeed writer Katie Notopoulos, whose article on the whole Facebook glasses thing is absolutely worth reading. But this bit is just pure silliness and makes Facebook look ridiculous:

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.

Sometimes to stop the creeps, you have to become...a creep.

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.

Yeah, that's not how any of this works. Claiming that putting a piece of tape over a light is "tampering" that violates the terms is highly questionable. Second, thinking that that even matters is just exceptionally silly. If people want to cover the light, they'll cover the light. At least confront that head on rather than with a "ooooh, you'll break your warranty" kind of nonsense. But this is Facebook and Facebook is going to do Facebook type things and believe that the terms of service rules all.

Beyond the ridiculousness of this response, it drifts into right to repair territory and questions of ownership. Facebook has taken over enough of people's lives as is. They shouldn't be out there telling you what you can do with physical products you purchased, even if they're associated with the product.

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Filed Under: cameras, glasses, led lights, ownership, privacy, ray ban stories, right to repair, stories, sunglasses, tape, terms of service
Companies: facebook, ray ban


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  1. icon
    Koby (profile), 10 Sep 2021 @ 12:42pm

    CYA

    There's a handful of two party consent states when it comes to recording. I bet the LED feature is there primarily to appease the lawyers. If someone files a lawsuit, FB can at least sort of claim that they took steps to notify everyone in the area that their glasses were actively recording. Because of their policy, they might be successful in court at shifting liability onto the users, and could maybe get regulators off their back.


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