By Martin Brown, General Manager, Security Technology and Strategy
For a little while now we’ve been seeing augmented-reality products appearing in app stores and elsewhere… ranging from apps which show the rear-facing camera view as background so you can see obstacles as you approach them whilst texting, to search engines which use on-screen arrows to show you which direction to take to get to the local cinema, shops, swimming pool etc., (just stop when you get there — your smartphone is probably not waterproof!).
Most recently, we’ve seen Google and others announce their augmented-reality glasses, and the reaction, not surprisingly, has been positive. I too got a geek hot flush and thought how cool it would be to have a pair — watched the video (a ukulele? Really?) and have added it to my mental wish list…
However, having had a little while to think about it, the kind of data augmentation these augmented-reality products provide could have some serious social and security implications…
Being able to capture your environment inconspicuously, feed and get feedback from search engines, video feeds and voice/video calling works great when it’s for the good of mankind and we use it sensibly. But, in a world where we’ve already seen apps which do things like find ‘hot’ people nearby, once they appear in the mainstream what will stop development of the same kind of apps for augmented-reality products?
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. How can augmented reality help you do business if it’s just distracting? It’s no help to know that the person opposite looks more like the marshmallow Mr Stay Puft from Ghostbusters in their holiday speedos than the honed, original Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller.
It’s readily accepted these days that one vendor’s closed development environment is someone else’s jailbreaking opportunity — so saying the vendor will control the data is potentially a little naive as the capabilities of the jailbreak community continue to hone their skills.
I know we’re only in the early days of augmented reality, and it has yet to evolve and develop, hopefully with layers of security and protection alongside. However, over time I can see a rat race quickly emerging where it becomes the imperative to show as much information as possible to demonstrate dominance in this space, which in turn lowers the boundaries around sense and sensibility.
Of course, once we have an increased level of augmented-reality data, we then move into the space of data loss. People handed in over 10,000 pairs of glasses/sunglasses on TfL (Transport for London) over the period of a year* — what if in the future a small proportion of those were augmented-reality glasses? That’s a lot of data loss and easy access to a person’s data and contacts…
Augmented reality is here to stay— it’s been on too many SciFi movies not to happen — it’s the steps we take today to protect our personal and business data that will control how much of you appears as a glint on someone else’s eye as they inconspicuously review your life right in front of you.