SHOULD CONDOMINIUMS BAN GOOGLE GLASS AND SMART GLASSES IN COMMON AREAS?

Published on: March 13, 2014

Just when you were getting used to your iPhones, it is time to get ready for the next wave.  Smart phones may soon be replaced with smart glasses.  Google Glass allows the user to view images called up in the glass through voice activation or by touching the rims of the glasses.  The product is expected to hit the market in 2014.   Currently they sell on e-bay for around $2,300 a pair.

Google Glass like most smart phones also allows the user to take and share photographs and video recordings.  However, unlike most smart phones, the user taking the video or photographs will not be obvious.  Instead of pointing and clicking, Google Glass users can take photographs and video surreptiously, James Bond style.  Actually, other companies are in the process of designing “smart contact lenses”.

Google Glass concerns are timely in light of the recent “upskirt” case decided by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.  In Commonwealth v. Robertson, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that a person who took photos of a woman’s crotch area underneath her skirt while she was standing in the subway was not illegal, because it did not constitute a “secret videotape of someone who was nude or partially nude”. While the legislative quickly responded by passing a bill to protect the privacy of young women on the trolley, the technology raises privacy and safety concerns in general and makes it easier for people to surreptitiously video and photograph others. 

While Google Glass had not yet been released for public consumption, there are a few thousand “testers” or “explorers” using the product. The web is a buzz with a few fights or confrontations that have broken out in bars and cafes as a result.  In response, some west coast bars and cafes (located mainly in Seattle and California, known high tech areas) have banned the product.  Some businesses, including law firms are following suit.  Business leaders, including notoriously conservative lawyers and accountants are concerned about having confidential or sensitive documents surreptitiously photographed.  Police, Judges and District Attorneys are concerned for witness intimidation and jury tampering concerns.

This begs the question: should condominiums follow suit and ban Google glass or smart glasses from common areas?  Do all residents want themselves or their children being secretly photographed or videotaped in the common areas; say for example the gym or the pool?  Do Board Members or Property Managers want their board meetings secretly taped or photographed? Its one thing if permission is given or its obvious.  Secret recordings are another matter entirely.   

If condominiums want to ban Google Glass or Smart Glasses from the common areas, condominium boards should be able to do so by enacting a simple rule under their rule making authority.  Such a rule would likely withstand scrutiny as it is done to protect legitimate privacy and safety interests of unit owners.  The recent “upskirt” controversy demonstrates that sometimes the rule makers need to keep up with the technology.

For a copy of Commonwealth v. Robertson click here