By Phil Weir
A change has come over me. Suddenly I’m beginning to think, that in a free, secular society, the wearing of a burka, a niqab or a yashmak may soon not be a such a bad idea after all.
Not for everybody, that is. I was thinking in terms of just for me.
Yes, I can definitely see myself one day cutting a dash by mak’ing a yash.
Not that I’ve suddenly ‘found Islam’ or have a compulsion to cross-dress Middle eastern-stylee, or have decided to infiltrate a harem or anything like that. This U-turn in my mindset on the subject of these veil-like garments has been prompted by a new device made by Google – Google Glass.
For those readers who exist quite happily on the blunt edge of modern technology (my natural habitat too), Google Glass is a kind of wearable computer in the shape of futuristic spectacles.
It has a heads-up, in-vision display, internet access, apps, etc., and is controlled by touch or voice command.
So far, no niqab is called for.
But the gadget has other specifications that take it deep into Big Brother territory. And this is where my asdic begins to ping.
It seems Google Glass can surreptitiously take photos and shoot video, which gives the gizmo the power to bulldoze social etiquette aside and invade personal privacy with the subtlety of a stealth Panzer.
Would you want to be filmed or photographed without knowing it? Would you like to converse face to face with somebody in the uneasy knowledge that they might be recording you?
Now we are all surely aware that privacy and anonymity ain’t what they used to be.
CCTV cameras are all about us and mobile phones have the capacity to take snaps fairly unobtrusively.
However, in these cases, we generally know where the CCTV units are located, and the chances are that when someone takes your photo with a mobile, the body language of the photographer alerts you to the situation.
Not so, I think, with Google Glass.
Let’s say, you’re walking along a busy street of the near-tomorrow, and 50 pedestrians coming and going around you are all, clone-like, wearing Google Glass.
The spec-sets may carry an external, alerting light indicating recording is in progress, but how detectable will that be in such a crush of bodies?
Barely, if at all, I reckon.
And this is the point at which I feel I will be reaching for a burka and slipping it over my bonce – on it will go whenever I know I’m bound for public places where Google Glassites are known to gather and smugly snoop on the unaware.
Attired in my all-enclosing cowl, I will move among the Google Glassed hordes, like a Ned Kelly swathed in cloth, without paying the slightest heed to their spy apparatus.
Of course, the issue of privacy aside, the health & safety drawbacks of Google Glass are equally important.
The specs are probably not best worn when driving a car, riding a bike, piloting a plane, or walking a tightrope. They could also cause problems on a simple stroll down the street, with too much concentration on in-glass images causing the wearer to Google into lamp-posts, to Google down open manholes, and to Google their length over unnoticed kerbs, steps and small dogs.
Those wearing these goggles on nudist beaches and in public toilets could also find themselves in difficulty.
But then, in my book, they’d deserve all they’d get.
As you may have detected, I have a stockpile of derision to unload on Google Glassites when they do start to appear in numbers in our communities - the sort of derision up until now I have reserved for those people, who not content with having simple mobile phones, march in and out of supermarkets talking loudly to hands-free phone devices stuck on their ears like wheel clamps.
They generally wear shell-suits and appear to be taking calls from heads of state concerning matters of global importance. Either that or they are being telephonically ordered by their wives to get a six-pack of white puddings from the deep freeze in aisle 10.
But going back to me in my burka, it’s just occurred to me the advantage I would have. I could buy a spy-spex set myself and do the candid camera stuff on everybody else, safe in my complete anonymity, concealed behind my ‘letter-box’ eye slit! Google Glass? What’s not to love!