Can Facebook’s smart glasses be smart about security and privacy?

Facebook’s recently announced Ray-Ban Stories glasses, which have two cameras and three microphones built in, are in the news again.

Facebook has kicked off a worldwide project dubbed Ego4D to research new uses for smart glasses.

Ray-Ban Stories glasses capture audio and video so wearers can record their experiences and interactions. The research project aims to add augmented reality features to the glasses, potentially including facial recognition and other artificial intelligence technologies that could provide wearers with a wealth of information, including the ability to get answers to questions like “Where did I leave my keys?”

Several other technology companies like Google, Microsoft, Snap, Vuzix and Lenovo have also been experimenting with versions of augmented or mixed reality glasses. Augmented reality glasses can display useful information within the lenses, providing an electronically enhanced view of the world. For example, smart glasses could draw a line over the road to show you the next turn or let you see a restaurant’s Yelp rating as you look at its sign.

However, some of the information that augmented reality glasses give their users could include identifying people in the glasses’ field of view and displaying personal information about them. It was not too long ago that Google introduced Google Glass, only to face a public backlash for simply recording people. Compared to being recorded by smartphones in public, being recorded by smart glasses feels to people like a greater invasion of privacy.

As a researcher who studies computer security and privacy, I believe it’s important for technology companies to proceed with caution and consider the security and privacy risks of augmented reality.

Smartphones vs. smart glasses

Even though people are now used to being photographed in public, they also expect the photographer typically to raise their smartphone to compose a photo. Augmented reality glasses fundamentally disrupt or violate this sense of normalcy. The public setting may be the same, but the sheer scale and approach of recording has changed.

A pair of sunglasses
Facebook’s Ray-Ban Stories glasses capture photos and video and play audio,…