Facebook’s Ray-Ban Stories glasses have got a problem

Yup, someone at Facebook thought that despite all evidence Google Glass maybe was a pretty neat idea after all…

Graham Cluley
@gcluley

Facebook's Ray-Ban Stories glasses have got a problem

Earlier this month, Facebook announced the worst idea that it has come up with for… oooh, the last few weeks.

The social media goliath has launched its first pair of smart glasses, “Ray-Ban Stories.”

That’s right, they’re branded Ray-Ban, almost as if Facebook knew that putting its name on devices that will be used to film others without their knowledge might be something of an own goal.

(Quite what the Ray-Ban brand is thinking it will do to its own brand by getting into bed with Facebook is anyone’s guess…)

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Readers will, of course, remember the disaster that was Google Glass – the dorky “smart” eyewear that uploaded footage of individuals without their knowledge to Google’s servers, whilst simultaneously making their wearer (known as “glassholes”) look like a complete berk.

Unsurprisingly, the general public didn’t take kindly to folks filming them with Google Glass without their permission.

At best if you walked around wearing Google Glass you might be greeted with a cheery…

“There’s some weird shit on your face”

… at worst you’d be met with a swinging fist and a shout of…

“Stop being an arsehole!”

It was no surprise to hear that many establishments banned wearers of Google Glass from its premises, and they were viewed as highly anti-social.

Facebook, however, clearly wasn’t put off by Google’s disastrous experiment with digital spectacles all those years ago, and has now launched its own version.

Now, to give them their due, Ray-Ban Stories are nothing like as dorky-looking as Google Glass. In fact, they look pretty much like Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses.

But they still allow someone to spy on you, take a photograph or a short movie which will – presumably – end up posted on Facebook without your explicit permission.

So, what’s the latest? Well, European privacy regulators have said they are investigating whether Facebook’s “smart” spectacles are doing enough to warn people that they are being recorded by the wearer.

Ray-Ban Stories have a small LED which lights up to indicate that a video is being taken. But, of course, you’d have to know about how the glasses worked to realise that that meant you were being recorded.

Furthermore, would you notice the small non-blinking LED anyway?

Can you spot the LED?

“While it is accepted that many devices including smart phones can record third party individuals, it is generally the case that the camera or the phone is visible as the device by which recording is happening, thereby putting those captured in the recordings on notice. With the glasses, there is a very small indicator light that comes on when recording is occurring. It has not been demonstrated to the DPC and Garante that comprehensive testing in the field was done by Facebook or Ray-Ban to ensure the indicator LED light is an effective means of giving notice,” wrote Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC), which has the unenviable job of regulating Facebook’s antics because it is where the social media company’s European base is located.

It seems to me that there’s a very simple fix for this problem, which only requires a little redesign of the glasses.

How about if the spectacles had an additional dot matrix display above them, which scrolled a message that announced to bystanders that they might be being filmed?

Of course, that doesn’t help people who are visually-impaired or blind. They have just as much right to privacy as the rest of us. So the visual warning should be accompanied by a clear and loud audible warning:

“WARNING! A TWAT WEARING FACEBOOK-CONNECTED SPECTACLES IS IN THE VICINITY”

That should work nicely.

Leave your own comments below on how you think the problem would best be resolved, and I’ll pass them on to Mark Zuckerberg.

For more discussion of this topic, be sure to check out this episode of the “Smashing Security” podcast:

Smashing Security #244: 'Facebook Ray-Bans, VPN spies, and AI camouflage'

Your browser does not support this audio element. https://aphid.fireside.fm/d/1437767933/dd3252a8-95c3-41f8-a8a0-9d5d2f9e0bc6/bf761951-2975-4553-bde6-267cf8d0fbe4.mp3

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

6 comments on “Facebook’s Ray-Ban Stories glasses have got a problem”

  1. So, here's the thing. Getting a internet-connected camera/heads-up display on a lot of faces in some fashion has to happen before wide-spread augmented reality (AR) can begin to take off. Because of the inherent commercial/advertising potential this technology would make possible, there is probably a decent amount of corporate investment just waiting for the right platform to come along. This particular Facebook entry will likely fail for the same reasons as Google Glass did (privacy concerns/squick factor). But even without a wearable face-cam set up to take recordings on demand, overcoming the real technological challenges has so far been more hyperbolic than hopeful (see Magic Leap, et al.) – but some day, something like this will most likely be A Thing™.

  2. Sheisseberg is a huge POS. Fakebook will collapse. We will help as much as possible to see the end of it. And the twat at twatter is going the same way. Sad to see you there but understandable.
    Keep up the good work Graham.

  3. I placed a comment. It looks like the "comments police" didn't like it. Tough! That is the good thing with other platforms available to us.
    I will pass the word around. Is Akismet the "fact checker"?
    Good luck!

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