Societal Implications of Wearable Technology

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Societal Implications of Wearable Technology: Interpreting “Trialability on the Run”


This chapter presents a set of scenarios involving the GoPro wearable Point of View (PoV) camera. The scenarios are meant to stimulate discussion about acceptable usage contexts with a focus on security and privacy. The chapter provides a wide array of examples of how overt wearable technologies are perceived and how they might/might not be welcomed into society. While the scenario is based at the University of Wollongong campus in Australia, the main implications derived from the fictitious events are useful in drawing out the predicted pros and cons of the technology. The scenarios are interpreted and the main thematic issues are drawn out and discussed. An in depth analysis takes place around the social implications, the moral and ethical problems associated with such technology, and possible future developments with respect to wearable devices.


This chapter presents the existing, as well as the potential future, implications of wearable computing. Essentially, the chapter builds on the scenarios presented in an IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine article entitled: “Trialability on the Run” (Gokyer & Michael, 2015). In this chapter the scenarios are interpreted qualitatively using thick description and the implications arising from these are discussed using thematic analysis. The scenario analysis is conducted through deconstruction, in order to extract the main themes and to grant the reader a deeper understanding of the possible future implications of the widespread use of wearable technology. First, each of the scenarios is analyzed to draw out the positive and the negative aspects of wearable cameras. Second, the possible future implications stemming from each scenario context are discussed under the following thematic areas: privacy, security, society, anonymity, vulnerability, trust and liberty. Third, direct evidence is provided using the insights of other research studies to support the conclusions reached and to identify plausible future implications of wearable technologies, in particular use contexts in society at large.

The setting for the scenario is a closed-campus environment, (a large Australian University). Specific contexts such as a lecture theatre, restroom, café, bank, and library, are chosen to provide a breadth of use cases within which to analyze the respective social implications. The legal, regulatory, and policy-specific bounds of the study are taken from current laws, guidelines and normative behavior, and are used as signposts for what should, or should not, be acceptable practice. The outcomes illustrate that the use cases are not so easily interpretable, given the newness of the emerging technology of wearable computing, especially overt head-mounted cameras, that draw a great deal of attention from bystanders. Quite often resistance to the use of a head-mounted camera is opposed without qualified reasoning. “Are you recording me? Stop that please!” is a common response to audio-visual bodyworn recording technology in the public space by individuals (Michael & Michael, 2013). Yet companies such as Google have been able to use fleets of cars to gather imagery of homes and streets, with relatively little problem.

There are, indeed, laws that pertain to the misuse of surveillance devices without a warrant, to the unauthorized recording of someone else whether in a public or private space, and to voyeuristic crimes such as upskirting. While there are laws, such as the Workplace Surveillance Act, 2005 (NSW), asserting a set of rules for surveillance (watching from above), the law regarding sousveillance (watching from below) is less clear (Clarke, 2012). We found that, while public spaces like libraries and lecture theatres have clear policy guidelines to follow, the actual published policies, and the position taken by security staff, do not in fact negate the potential to indirectly record another. Several times, through informal questioning, we found the strong line “you cannot do that because we have a policy that says you are not allowed to record someone”, to be unsubstantiated by real enforceable universitywide policies. Such shortcomings are now discussed in more detail against scenarios showing various sub-contexts of wearable technology in a closed-campus setting.


The term sousveillance has been defined by Steve Mann (2002) to denote a recording done from a portable device such as a head-mounted display (HMD) unit in which the wearer is a participant in the activity. In contrast to wall-mounted fixed cameras typically used for surveillance, portable devices allow inverse surveillance: recordings from the point of view of those being watched. More generally, point of view (POV) has its foundations in film, and usually depicts a scene through the eyes of a character. Body-worn video-recording technologies now mean that a wearer can shoot film from a first-person perspective of another subject or object in his or her immediate field of view (FOV), with or without a particular agenda.

During the initial rollout of Google Glass, explorers realized that recording other people with an optical HMD unit was not perceived as an acceptable practice, despite the fact that the recording was taking place in a public space. Google’s apparent blunder was to assume that the device, worn by 8,000 individuals, would go unnoticed, like shopping mall closed-circuit television (CCTV). Instead, what transpired was a mixed reaction by the public—some nonusers were curious and even thrilled at the possibilities claimed by the wearers of Google Glass, while some wearers were refused entry to premises, fined, verbally abused, or even physically assaulted by others in the FOV (see Levy, 2014).

Some citizens and consumers have claimed that law enforcement (if approved through the use of a warrant process) and shop owners have every right to surveil a given locale, dependent on the context of the situation. Surveilling a suspect who may have committed a violent crime or using CCTV as an antitheft mechanism is now commonly perceived as acceptable, but having a camera in your line of sight record you—even incidentally—as you mind your own business can be disturbing for even the most tolerant of people.

Wearers of these prototypes, or even of fully-fledged commercial products like the Autographer (see, claim that they record everything around them as part of a need to lifelog or quantify themselves for reflection. Technology such as the Narrative Clip may not capture audio or video, but even still shots are enough to reveal someone else’s whereabouts, especially if they are innocently posted on Flickr, Instagram, or other social media. Many of these photographs also have embedded location and time-stamp metadata stored by default.

A tourist might not have malicious intent by showing off in front of a landmark, but innocent bystanders captured in the photo could find themselves in a predicament given that the context may be entirely misleading.

Wearable and embedded cameras worn by any citizen carry significant and deep personal and societal implications. A photoborg is one who mounts a camera onto any aspect of the body to record the space around himself or herself (Michael & Michael, 2012). Photoborgs may feel entirely free, masters of their own destiny; even safe that their point of view is being noted for prospective reuse. Indeed, the power that photoborgs have is clear when they wear the camera. It can be even more authoritative than the unrestricted overhead gazing of traditional CCTV, given that sousveillance usually happens at ground level. Although photoborgs may be recording for their own lifelog, they will inevitably capture other people in their field of view, and unless these fellow citizens also become photoborgs themselves, there is a power differential. Sousveillance carries with it huge socioethical, environmental, economic, political, and spiritual overtones. The narrative that informs sousveillance is more relevant than ever before due to the proliferation of new media.

Sousveillance grants citizens the ability to combat the powerful using their own evidentiary mechanism, but it also grants other citizens the ability to put on the guise of the powerful. The evidence emanating from cameras is endowed with obvious limitations, such as the potential for the impairment of the data through loss, manipulation, or misrepresentation (Michael, 2013). The pervasiveness of the camera that sees and hears everything can only be reconciled if we know the lifeworld of the wearer, the context of the event being captured, and how the data will be used by the stakeholder in command.

Sousveillance happens through the gaze of the one wearing the camera, just like a first-person shooter in a video game. In 2003, WIRED published an article (Shachtman, 2003) on the potentiality to lifelog everything about everyone. Shachtman wrote:

The Pentagon is about to embark on a stunningly ambitious research project designed to gather every conceivable bit of information about a person’s life, index all the information and make it searchable… The embryonic LifeLog program would dump everything an individual does into a giant database: every e-mail sent or received, every picture taken, every Web page surfed, every phone call made, every TV show watched, every magazine read… All of this—and more—would combine with information gleaned from a variety of sources: a GPS transmitter to keep tabs on where that person went, audio-visual sensors to capture what he or she sees or says, and biomedical monitors to keep track of the individual’s health… This gigantic amalgamation of personal information could then be used to “trace the ‘threads’ of an individual’s life.”

This goes to show how any discovery can be tailored toward any end. Lifelogging is meant to sustain the power of the individual through reflection and learning, to enable growth, maturity and development. Here, instead, it has been hijacked by the very same stakeholder against whom it was created to gain protection.

Sousveillance also drags into the equation innocent bystanders going about their everyday business who just wish to be left alone. When we asked wearable 2.0 pioneer Steve Mann in 2009 what one should do if bystanders in a recording in a public space questioned why they were being recorded without their explicit permission, he pointed us to his “request for deletion” (RFD) web page (Mann, n.d.). This is admittedly only a very small part of the solution and, for the most part, untenable. One just needs to view a few minutes of the Surveillance Camera Man Channel ( to understand that people generally do not wish to be filmed in someone else’s field of view. Some key questions include:

1. In what context has the footage been taken?

2. How will it be used?

3. To whom will the footage belong?

4. How will the footage taken be validated and stored?

Trialability on the Run

In this section, plausible scenarios of the use of wearable cameras in a closed campus setting are presented and analyzed in the story “Trialability on the Run”. Although the scenarios are not based directly on primary sources of evidence, they do provide conflicting perspectives on the pros and cons of wearables. As companies are engaged in ever-shorter market trialing of their products, the scenarios demonstrate what can go wrong with an approach that effectively says: “Let’s unleash the product now and worry about repercussions later; they’ll iron themselves out eventually—our job is solely to worry about engineering.” The pitfalls of such an approach are the unexpected and asymmetric consequences that ensue. For instance, someone wearing a camera breaches my privacy, and, although the recorded evidence has affected no one else, my life is affected adversely. Laws, and organizational policies especially, need quickly to respond as advances in technologies emerge.

“Trialability on the Run” is a “day in the life” scenario that contains 9 parts, set in a closed-campus in southern New South Wales. The main characters are Anthony, the owner and wearer of the head-mounted GoPro (an overt audio-visual recording device), and his girlfriend Sophie. The narrator follows and observes the pair as they work their way around the campus in various sub-contexts, coming into contact with academic staff, strangers, acquaintances, cashiers, banking personnel, librarians, fellow university students and finally security personnel. Anthony takes the perspective that his head-mounted GoPro is no different from the mounted security surveillance cameras on lampposts and building walls, or from the in-lecture theatre recordings captured by the Echo360 (Echo, 2016), or even from portable smart phone cameras that are handheld. He is bewildered when he draws so much attention to himself as the photoborg camera wearer, since he perceives he is performing exactly the same function as the other cameras on campus and has only the intent of capturing his own lifelog. Although he is not doing anything wrong, Anthony looks different and stands out as a result (Surveillance Camera Man, 2015). His girlfriend, Sophie, is not convinced by Anthony’s blasé attitude and tries to press a counter argument that Anthony’s practice is unacceptable in society.

Scenario 1: The Lecture


In this scenario, the main character, Anthony, has arrived at the lecture theatre, in which the lesson had already begun, intending to record the lecture instead of taking notes. Being slightly late, he decided to sit in the very front row. All the students and eventually the lecturer saw the head-mounted camera he was wearing. The lecturer continued his lecture without showing any emotion. Some students giggled at the spectacle and others were very surprised with what they observed, as it was quite probable that it was the first time that they were seeing someone wearing a camera to record a lecture. The students were generally not bothered by the head-mounted recording device in full view, as it was focused on the lecture material and the lecturer, so proceedings continued, as they otherwise would have, had the body-worn camera not been present. Students are very used to surveillance cameras on campus; this was just another camera as far as they were concerned, and besides no one objected: they were too busy taking notes and listening to instruction about the structure and form of the final examination in their engineering coursework.

Wearable User Rights and Intellectual Property

In some of the lecture theatres on university campuses, there are motion sensor based video cameras that make full audio-visual recordings of the lectures (Echo, 2016). Lecturers choose to record their lectures in this manner as available evidence of educational content covered for students, especially for those who were unable to attend the lecture, for those for whom English is a second language or for those who like to listen to lecture content as a form of revision. In this regard, there are no policies in place to keep the students from making audio-visual recordings of the lecture in the lecture theatres.

Lecture theatres are considered public spaces and many universities allow students to attend lectures whether or not they are enrolled in that particular course or subject. Anyone from the public could walk into lectures and listen, as there is no keycard access. Similar to centrally organized Echo 360 audio-visual recordings, Anthony is taping the lecture himself and he does not see any problems with distributing the recording to classmates if someone asks for it to study for the final examination. After all, everyone owns a smartphone and anyone can record the lecture with the camera on their smartphones or tablet device.

This scenario raises a small number of questions that need to be dealt with foremost, such as “What is the difference between making a recording with a smartphone and with a head-mounted camera?” or, “Does it only start being a problem when the recording device is overt and can be seen?” If one juxtaposes the surveillance camera covertly integrated into a light fixture, with an overt head-mounted camera, then why should the two devices elicit such a different response from bystanders?

These questions do not, however, address the fact that an open discussion is required on whether or not we are ready to see a great deal of these sousveillers in our everyday life, and if we are not, what are we prepared to do about it? Mann (2005) predicted the use of sousveillance would grow greatly when the sousveillance devices acquired non-traditional uses such as making phone calls, taking pictures, and having access to the Internet. This emergence produces a grey area, generating the requirement for laws, legislation, regulations and policies having to be amended or created to address specific uses of the sousveillance devices in different environments and contexts. Clarke (2014) identifies a range of relevant (Australian) laws to inform policy discussion and notes the inadequacy of current regulation in the face of rapidly emerging technology.

Scenario 2: The Restroom


In the restroom scenario, Anthony walked into a public restroom after his lecture, forgetting that his head-mounted camera was still on and recording. While unintentionally recording, Anthony received different reactions from the people present in the restroom, all of whom saw the camera and suspected some foul play. The first person, who was leaving as Anthony was entering the restroom, did not seem to care; another tried to ignore Anthony and left as soon as he was finished. The last person became disturbed by the fact that he was being recorded in what he obviously deemed to be a private place. Later that day when Anthony searched for lecture recordings on the tape, he got a sense of wrongdoing after realizing that, in the restroom, he had accidentally left the camera on in record mode. He was surprised, upon hindsight, that he did not get any major reactions, such as an individual openly expressing their discontent or the fact he did not get any specific questions or pronouncements of discomfort. If it were not for the facial expressions to which Anthony was privy, he would not have been able to tell that anybody was upset, as there was no verbal cue or physical retaliation. Of course, the innocent bystanders, going about their business, would not have been able to assume that the camera was indeed rolling.

Citizen Privacy, Voyeurism, and a Process of Desensitization

Restrooms, change rooms, and shower blocks on campus are open to the public, but they are also considered private spaces given that people are engaged in private activities (e.g. showering), and are, at times, not fully clothed. The natural corollary, then, would lead to the expectation that some degree of privacy should be granted. Can anyone overtly walk into a public toilet sporting a camera and record you while you are trying to, for modesty’s sake, do what should only be done in the restroom? Is the body-worn technology becoming so ubiquitous that no one even says a word about something that they can clearly see is ethically or morally wrong? Steve Mann has argued that surveillance cameras in the restroom are an invasion of privacy more abhorrent than body-worn cameras owned by everyday people. The direct approachability of the photoborg differs from an impersonal CCTV.

There is a long discussion to be had on personal security. For instance, will we all, one day, be carrying such devices as we seek to lifelog our entire histories, or acquire an alibi for our whereabouts should we be accused of a given crime, as portrayed in film in the drama “The Entire History of You” (Armstrong and Welsh, 2011)? It is very common to find signs prohibiting the use of mobile phones in leisure centers, swimming pools and the like. There remains, however, much to be argued around safety versus privacy trade-offs, if it is acceptable practice to rely on closed circuit television (CCTV) in public spaces.

University campuses are bound by a number of laws, at federal or state level, including (in this case) the Privacy Act 1998 (Cth), the Surveillance Devices Act 2007(NSW), and the Workplace Surveillance Act 2005 (NSW). This scenario points out that even when there cannot possibly be surveillance cameras in restrooms or change rooms, the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 (NSW) does not specify provisions about sousveillance in those public/private spaces. In Clarke’s (2014) assessment of the NSW Crimes Act (1900), the voyeurism offences provisions exist relating to photographs. They pertain to photographs that are of a sexual and voyeuristic nature, usually showing somebody’s private parts. These photographs are also taken without the consent of the individual and/or taken in places where a person would reasonably expect to be afforded privacy (toilets, showers, change rooms etc). When a person claims to have had his or her privacy breached, however, exceptions to this rule apply if s/he is a willing participant in the activity, or if circumstances indicate that the persons involved did not really care if they were seen by onlookers (Clarke, 2014). It is even less likely to be illegal, if the act was conducted in a private place, but with doors open in full view (Clarke, 2014). Thus, the law represents controls over a narrow range of abuses (Clarke, 2014), and, unless they find themselves in a predicament and seek further advice, the general populace is unaware that the law does not protect them entirely, and depends on the context.

Scenario 3: The Corridor


This scenario depicts a conversation occurring with Sophie (Anthony’s girlfriend and fellow undergraduate coursework student). In the corridor, Anthony bumps into their mutual friend, Oxford, as they vacate the lecture theatre. Throughout the conversation, Anthony demonstrates confidence in his appearance. He believed wearing a head-mounted camera was not a problem and so consequently, he did not think he was doing anything wrong. On the other hand, Sophie was questioning whether or not body-worn cameras should be used without notifying the people in their vicinity. Oxford, an international student, became concerned about the possible future uses of the recording that featured him. His main concern was that he did not want the footage to be made publicly available given how he looked and the clothing he was wearing. Although Oxford had no objection to Anthony keeping the footage for his personal archives, he did not wish for it to be splattered all over social media.

Trust, Disproportionality, and Requests for Deletion

The two student perspectives of “recording” a lifelog are juxtaposed. Anthony is indifferent as he feels he is taping “his” life as it happens around him through time. Oxford, on the other hand, believes he has a right to his own image, and that includes video (Branscomb, 1994). Here we see a power and control dominance occurring. The power and control is with the photoborg who has the ability to record, store and share the information gathered. On the other hand, the bystander is powerless and at the mercy of the photoborg, unless he/she voices otherwise explicitly. In addition, bystanders may not be so concerned with an actual live recording for personal archives, but certainly are concerned about public viewing. Often lifelogs are streamed in real-time and near real-time, which does not grant the bystander confidence with respect to acceptable use cases.

In the scenario, Sophie poses a question to those who are being incidentally recorded by Anthony’s GoPro to see whether there is an expectation among her peers to get individual consent prior to a recording taking place. Oxford, the mutual acquaintance of the protagonists, believes that consent is paramount in this process. This raises a pertinent question: what about the practice of lifelogging? Lifeloggers could not possibly have the consent of every single person they encounter in a daily journey. Is lifelogging acceptable insofar as lifeloggers choose not to share recordings online or anywhere public? Mann (2005) argues that a person wishing to do lifelong sousveillance deserves certain legal protections against others who might attempt to disrupt continuity of evidence, say for example, while going through immigration. On the other hand, Harfield (2014) extends the physical conception of a private space in considering the extent to which an individual can expect to be private in a public space, defining audio-visual recording of a subject without their consent in public spaces as a moral wrong and seeing the act of sousveillance as a moral intrusion against personal privacy.

In the scenario, Sophie pointed out that if someone wanted to record another individual around them, they could easily do so covertly using everyday objects with embedded covert cameras, such as a pen, a key fob, a handbag or even their mobile phone. Sophie was able to put into perspective the various gazes from security cameras when compared to sousveillance. The very thought about the mass surveillance she was under every moment provided a sobering counterbalance, allowing her to experience tolerance for the practice of sousveillance. Yet for Oxford, the security cameras mounted on the walls and ceilings of the Communications Building, provided a level of safety for international students. Oxford clearly justified “security cameras for security reasons”, but could not justify additional “in your face” cameras. Oxford did not wish to come across a sousveiller because the recordings could be made publicly available on the Internet without his knowledge. Further, a clear motive for the recordings had not been conveyed by the camera holder (Michael et al., 2014).

Between 1994 and 1996, Steve Mann conducted a Wearable Wireless Webcam experiment to visually record and continuously stream live video from his wearable computer to the World Wide Web. Operating 24 hours a day (on and off), this had the effective purpose of capturing and archiving day-to-day living from the person’s own perspective (Mann, 2005). Mann has argued that in the future, devices that captured lifelong memories and shared them in real-time would be commonplace and worn continuously (Mann, 2013).

It is true that almost everywhere we go in our daily lives someone, somewhere, is watching. But in the workplace, especially, where there is intent to watch an employee, the law states that individuals must be notified that they are being watched (Australasian Legal Information Institute, 2015). When it comes to sousveillance will this be the case as well? In Australia, the use, recording, communication or publication of recorded information from a surveillance device under a warrant is protected data and cannot be openly shared according to the Surveillance Device Act 2004 (Cth). In the near future when we are making a recording with an overt device, a prospective sousveillance law might posit: “You can see that I am recording you but this is for personal use only and as long as I do not share this video with someone you cannot do or say anything to stop me.” Mann (2005) claims that sousveillance, unlike surveillance, will require, and receive, strong legal support through dedicated frameworks for its protection, as well as for its limitation (Mann & Wassell, 2013).

A person can listen to, or visually monitor, a private activity if s/he is a participant in the activity (Australasian Legal Information Institute, 2014). However, this Act forbids a person to install, use or maintain an optical surveillance device or a listening device to record a private activity whether the person is a party to the activity or not. The penalties do not apply to the use of an optical surveillance device or listening device resulting in the unintentional recording or observation of a private activity (Surveillance Devices Act, 1998 (WA)). Clarke (2014) combines optical surveillance device regulation with the regulation for listening devices and concludes that a person can listen to conversations if they are a participant in the activity but cannot make audio or visual recordings. The applications of the law cover only a limited range of situations and conditions may apply for prosecutions.

Scenario 4: Ordering at the Café


Anthony and Sophie approached the counter of a café to place their orders and Anthony soon found himself engaged in a conversation with the attendants at the serving area about the camera he was wearing. He asked the attendants how they felt about being filmed. The male attendant said he did not like it very much and the female barista said she would not mind being filmed. The manager did not comment about any aspect of the head-mounted GoPro recording taking place but he did make some derogatory comments about Anthony’s behavior to Sophie. The male attendant became disturbed about the idea of someone recording him while he was at work and he tried to direct Anthony to the manager, knowing that the manager would not like it either, and it would disturb him even more. Conversely, however, the female barista was far from upset about the impromptu recording, acting as if she was on a reality TV show, and taken by the fact that someone seemed to show some interest to her, overcoming the normal daily routine.

Exhibitionism, Hesitation, and Unease

People tend to care a great deal about being watched over or scrutinized and this is reflected in their social behaviors and choices, which are altered as a result without them even realizing (Nettle et. al., 2012). Thus, some people who generally do not like being recorded (like the male attendant), might be subconsciously rejecting the idea of having to change their behaviors. Others, like the manager, simply ignore the existence of the device and others still, like the female attendant, feel entirely comfortable in front of a camera, even playing up and portraying himself or herself as someone “they want to be seen as”.

Anthony did not understand why people found the camera on his head disturbing with the additional concerns about being recorded. In certain cases where people seemed to show particular interest, Anthony decided to engage others about how they felt about being filmed and tried to understand what their reactions were to constant ground-level surveillance. Anthony himself had not been educated with respect to campus policy or the laws pertaining to audio-visual recording in a public space. Anthony was unaware that in Australia, surveillance device legislation differs greatly between states but, broadly, audio and/or visual recording of a private activity is likely to be illegal whatever the context (Clarke, 2014). An activity is, however, only considered to be “private” when it is taking place inside a building, and in the state of New South Wales this includes vehicles. People, however, are generally unaware that prohibitions may not apply if the activity is happening outside a building, regardless of context (Clarke, 2014).

If people were to see someone wearing a head-mounted camera as they were going about their daily routine, it would doubtless gain their attention, as it is presently an unusual occurrence. When we leave our homes, we do not expect pedestrians to be wearing head-mounted cameras, nor, (although increasingly we know we are under surveillance in taxis, buses, trains, and other forms of public transport), do we expect bus drivers, our teachers, fellow students, family or friends to be wearing body-worn recording devices. Having said that, policing has had a substantial impact on raising citizen awareness of body-worn audio-visual recording devices. We now have mobile cameras on cars, on highway patrol police officer helmets, and even on the lapels of particular police officers on foot. While this has helped to decrease the number of unfounded citizen complaints against law enforcement personnel on duty, it is also seen as a retaliatory strategy to everyday citizens who now have a smartphone video recorder at hand 24x7.

Although the average citizen does not always feel empowered to question one’s authority to record, everyone has the right to question the intended purpose of the video being taken of him or her, and how or where it will be shared. In this scenario, does Anthony have the right to record others as he pleases without their knowledge, either of him making the recording, or of the places where that recording might end up? Would Anthony get the same reaction if he were making the recordings with his smartphone? Owners of smart phones would be hard-pressed to say that they have never taken visual recordings of an activity where there are bystanders in the background that they do not know and from whom they have not gained consent. Such examples include children’s sporting events, wedding receptions, school events, attractions and points of interest and a whole lot more. Most photoborgs use the line of argumentation that says: “How is recording with a GoPro instead of a smartphone any different”? Of course, individuals who object to being subjected to point of view surveillance (PoVS) have potential avenues of protection (including trespass against property, trespass against the person, stalking, harassment etc.), but these protections are limited in their applications (Clarke, 2014). Even so, the person using PoVS technology has access to far more protection than the person they are monitoring even if they are doing so in an unreasonable manner (Clarke, 2014).

Scenario 5: Finding a Table at the Café


In this scenario, patrons at an on-campus café vacated their chairs almost immediately after Anthony and Sophie sat down at the large table. Anthony and Sophie both realized the camera was driving people away from them. Sophie insisted at that point in the scenario, that Anthony at least stopped recording if he was unwilling to take off the device itself. After Cygneta and Klara (Sophie’s acquaintances) had joined them at the table, Anthony, interested in individual reactions and trying to prove a point to Sophie, asked Klara how she felt about being filmed. He received the responses that he had expected. Klara did not like being filmed one bit by something worn on someone’s head. Moreover, despite being a marketing student, she had not even heard of Google Glass when Anthony tried to share his perspective around the issue by bringing up the technology in conversation. This fell on deaf ears, he thought, despite Cygneta’s thought that visual data might well be the future of marketing strategies. Anthony tried to make an argument that if a technology like Google Glass was to become prevalent on campus in a couple of years that they would not have any say about being recorded by a stranger. Sophie supported Anthony from a factual standpoint reinforcing that there were no laws in Australia prohibiting video recordings in public. That is, across the States and Territories of Australia, visual surveillance in public places are not subject to general prohibitions except when the person(s) would reasonably expect their actions to be private if they were engaging in a private act (NSW); or if the person(s) being recorded had a strong case for expecting he/she would not be recorded (Victoria, WA, NT); and in SA, Tasmania and ACT legislations for recording other people subject to various provisos (Clarke, 2014).

The reactions of Klara and Cygneta got Sophie thinking about gender and if men were more likely than women to get enthralled by technological devices. She could see this happening with drones and wearable technologies like smart watches - and came to the realization that the GoPro was no different. Some male surfers (including Anthony) and skateboard riders had well and truly begun to use their GoPros to film themselves doing stunts, then sharing these on Instagram. She reflected on whether or not people, in general, would begin to live a life of “virtual replays” as opposed to living in the moment. When reality becomes hard to handle, people tend to escape to a virtual world where they create avatars and act “freely”, leading to the postponement of the hardships of real life, and some may even become addicted to this as being a more exciting lifestyle. These issues are further explored in the following popular articles: Ghorayshi (2014), Kotler (2014) and Lagorio (2006).

Novelty and Market Potential

The patrons at the first table appeared to find the situation awkward and they rectified this problem by removing themselves from the vicinity of Anthony and his camera. Klara did not possess adequate knowledge about emerging wearable technology, and she claimed she would not use it even if it were readily available. But once wearable computers like Google Glass permeated the consumer market, Cygneta, who seemed like she ‘kept up with the Joneses’, said she would likely start using it at some point, despite Klara’s apparent resistance. While smartphones were a new technology in the 1990s, currently close to one third of the world’s population are using them regularly, with 70% projected by 2020 (Ericsson, 2015). One reason this number is not bigger is low-income countries with widespread rural populations and vast terrains: the numbers are expected to rise massively in emerging markets. By comparison wearable computers are basically advanced versions of existing technology and thus uptake of wearable technologies will likely be seamless and even quicker. As with smartphone adoption, as long as they are affordable, wearable computers such as Digital Glass and smartwatches can be expected to be used as much as, or even more than, smartphones, given they are always attached to the body or within arm’s reach.

Scenario 6: A Visit to the Bank


When Sophie and Anthony visited the bank, Anthony sat down as Sophie asked for assistance from one of the attendants. Even if Anthony was not the one who needed help, he thought people working at the bank seemed to be more friendly than usual towards him. He was asked, in fact, if he wanted some assistance with anything, and when he confirmed he did not, no further questioning by the bank manager was conducted. He thought it strange that everyone was so casual about his camera, when everyone else that day had made him feel like a criminal. Again, he was acutely aware that he was in full view of the bank’s surveillance camera but questioned if anyone was really watching anyway. The couple later queued up at the ATM where Anthony mentioned that had he had some disingenuous intentions: he could be filming people and acquiring their PINs so easily. No one had even attempted to cover up their PIN entry, even though there were now signs near the keypad to “cover up”. This entire situation made Sophie feel very uncomfortable and slightly irritated by Anthony. It was after all a criminal act to shoulder surf someone’s PIN, but to have it on film as well to replay later was outrageous. It seemed to her that, no matter how much advice people get about protecting their identity or credit from fraud, they just don’t seem to pay attention. To Anthony’s credit, he too, understood the severity of the situation and admittedly felt uncomfortable by the situation in which, with no malicious intent, he had accidentally found himself.


This scenario illustrates that people in the workplace who are under surveillance are more likely to help clients. Anthony’s camera got immediate attention and a forward request: “Can I help you?” When individuals become publicly self-aware that they are being filmed, then their propensity to help others generally increases. The feeling of public self-awareness created by the presence of a camera triggers the change in behavior in accordance with a pattern that signifies concerns with any damage that could be done to reputation (Van Bommel et. al., 2012).

Anthony also could not keep himself from questioning the security measures that the bank should be applying given the increase in incidence of cheap embedded cameras in both stationary and mobile phones. When queuing in front of the ATM for Sophie’s cash withdrawal, Anthony noticed that he was recording, unintentionally, something that could easily be used for criminal activities and he started seeing the possible security breaches which would come with emerging wearables. For example, video evidence can be zoomed in to reveal private data. While some believe that personal body worn recording devices protect the security of the individual wearer from mass surveillance, rectifying some of the power imbalances, in this instance the recording devices have diminished security by their very presence. It is a paradox, and while it all comes down to the individual ethics of the photoborg, it will not take long for fraudsters to employ such measures.

Scenario 7: In the Library


After the ATM incident, Anthony began to consider more deeply the implications of filming others in a variety of contexts. It was the very first time he had begun to place himself in other people’s shoes and see things from their perspective. In doing this, he became more cautious in the library setting. He avoided glaring at the computer screens of other users around him, as he could then record what activities they were engaged in online, what they were searching for on their Internet browser, and more. He attracted the attention of certain people he came across in the library, because obviously he looked different, even weird. For the first time that day, he felt like he was going to get into serious trouble when he was talking to the librarian who was questioning him about his practice. The librarian claimed that Anthony had absolutely no right to record other people without their permission, as it was against campus policies. Anthony did take this seriously, but he was pretty sure there was no policy against using a GoPro on campus. When Anthony asked the librarian to refer him to the exact policy and university web link, despite clearly stating that his actions were a breach of university rules, the librarian could not provide a link. She did say, however, that she would be calling the library management to convey to them that she suspected that someone was in the library in breach of university policy. While this conversation was happening, things not only began to become less clear for Anthony, but he could sense that things were escalating in seriousness and that he was about to get into some significant trouble.

Campus Policies, Guidelines, and Normative Expectations

The questions raised in this scenario are not only about privacy but also about the issues around the University’s willingness to accept certain things as permitted behavior on campus property. Token inappropriate filming of other individuals was presently a hot news item, as many young women were victims of voyeuristic behavior, such as upskirting with mobile phone cameras, and more. Yet, many universities simply rely on their “Student Conduct Rules” for support outside criminal intent. For example, a typical student conduct notice states that the students have a responsibility to conduct themselves in accordance with:

1. Campus Access and Order Rules,

2. IT Acceptable Use Policy, and

3. Library Code of Conduct.

However, none of these policies typically provide clear guidelines on audiovisual recordings by students.

Campus policies here are approved by the University Council, and various policies address only general surveillance considerations about audio-visual recordings. The Campus Access and Order Rules specifies that University grounds are private properties (University of Wollongong, 2014), and under the common law regarding real property, the lawful occupiers of land have the general right to prevent others from being on, or doing acts on, their land, even if an area on the land is freely accessible to the public (Clarke, 2014). It is Clarke’s latter emphasis which summarises exactly the context of a typical university setting which can be considered a closed-campus but open to the public.

The pace of technological change poses challenges for the law, and deficiencies in regulatory frameworks for Point of View Surveillance exist in many jurisdictions in Australia (Clarke, 2014). Australian universities as organizations are also bound (in this case) by the Workplace Surveillance Act 2005 (NSW) and the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW) (Australasian Legal Information Institute, 2016), which again do nothing to specify what is permitted in terms of rules or policies about sousveillance in actions committed by a student on campus grounds.

Scenario 8: Security on Campus


Security arrived at the scene of the incident and escorted Anthony to the security office. By this stage Anthony believed that this might well become a police matter. Security did not wish to ask Anthony questions about his filming on campus but ostensibly wanted to check whether or not Anthony’s GoPro had been stolen. There had been a spate of car park thefts, and it was for this that Anthony was being investigated. Anthony then thought it appropriate to ask them several questions about the recordings he had made, to which security mentioned the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 (NSW) and how they had to put signage to warn people about the cameras and the fact that activity was being recorded. Additionally, Anthony was told that CCTV footage could be shared only with the police, and that cameras on campus were never facing people but were facing toward the roadways, and footpaths. When Anthony reminded the security about Google Glass and asked if they had a plan for when Glass would be used on the campus, the security manager replied that everything would be thought about when the time arrived. Anthony left to attend a lecture for which he was once again late.

Security Breaches, the Law, and Enforcement

Anthony was not satisfied with the response of the security manager about campus rules pertaining to the filming of others. While Anthony felt very uncomfortable about the footage he had on his camera, he still did not feel that the university’s security office provided adequate guidance on acceptable use. The security manager had tended to skirt around providing a direct response to Anthony, probably because he did not have any concrete answers. First, the manager brought up the Video Piracy Policy topic and then the University’s IT Acceptable Use Policy. Anthony felt that those policies had nothing to do with him. First, he was sure he was not conducting video piracy in any way, and second, he was not using the university’s IT services to share his films with others or exceed his Internet quota, etc. Somehow, the manager connected this by saying that the recording might contain copyrighted material on it, and that it should never be transferred through the university’s IT infrastructure (e.g. network). He also shared a newspaper article with Anthony that was somehow supposed to act as a warning message but it just didn’t make sense to Anthony how all of that was connected to the issue at hand.

Scenario 9: Sophie’s Lecture


Arriving at the lecture theater after the lecture had already begun, Anthony and Sophie opened the door and the lecturer noticed the camera mounted on Anthony’s head. The lecturer immediately became infuriated, asking Anthony to remove the camera and to leave his classroom. Even after Anthony left the class, the lecturer still thought he might be being recorded through the lecture theatre’s part-glass door and so he asked Anthony to leave the corridor as well. The entire time, the GoPro was not recording any of the incidents. The incident became heated, despite Anthony fully accepting the academic’s perspective. It was the very last thing that Anthony had expected by that point in the day. It was absolutely devastating to him.

Ethics, Power, Inequality, and Non-Participation

Every student at an Australian university has academic freedom and is welcome to attend lectures whether or not they are enrolled in the subject. However, it is the academic instructor’s right to privacy to keep a student from recording his or her class. A lecturer’s classes are considered “teaching material” and the lecturer owns the intellectual property of his/her teaching material (University of Wollongong, 2014). In keeping with the aforementioned statements, any recording of lectures should be carried out after consulting with the instructor. Some lecturers do not even like the idea of Echo 360, as it can be used for much more than simply recording a lecture for reuse by students. Lecture recordings could be used to audit staff or surveil whether staff are doing their job properly, display innovative teaching techniques, possess poor or good knowledge of content, and stick to time or take early marks. Some faculty members also consider the classroom to be a sacred meeting place between them and students and would never wish for a camera to invade this intimate gathering. Cameras and recordings would indeed stifle a faculty member’s or a student’s right to freedom of speech if the video was ever to go public. It would also mean that some students would simply not contribute anything to the classroom if they knew they were being taped, or that someone might scrutinize their perspectives and opinions on controversial matters.

Possible Future Implications Drawn from Scenarios

In the scenarios, in almost every instance, the overt nature of Anthony’s wearable recording device, given it was head-mounted, elicited an instantaneous response. Others displayed a variety of responses and attitudes including that:

1. They liked it,

2. They did not mind it,

3. They were indifferent about it,

4. They did not like it and finally,

5. They were disturbed by it.

Regardless of which category they belonged to, however, they did not explicitly voice their feelings to Anthony, although body language and facial expressions spoke volumes. In this closed campus scenario, the majority of people who came into contact with Anthony fell under the first two categories. It also seems clear that some contexts were especially delicate, for instance, taking the camera (while still recording) into the restroom, an obviously private amenity. It is likely that individuals in the restroom would have had no problem with the GoPro filming outside the restroom setting.

Research into future technologies and their respective social implications is urgent, since many emerging technologies are here right now. Whatever the human mind can conjure is liable to be designed, developed, and implemented. The main concern is how we choose to deal with it. In this final section, issues drawn from the scenarios are speculatively extended to project future implications when wearable computing has become more ubiquitous in society.

Privacy, Security, and Trust

Privacy experts claim that while we might once have been concerned, or felt uncomfortable with, CCTV being as pervasive as it is today, we are shifting from a limited number of big brothers to ubiquitous little brothers (Shilton, 2009). The fallacy of security is that more cameras do not necessarily mean a safer society, and statistics, depending on how they are presented, may be misleading about reductions in crime in given hotspots. Criminals do not just stop committing crime (e.g. selling drugs) because a local council installs a group of multi-directional cameras on a busy public route. On the contrary, crime has been shown to be redistributed or relocated to another proximate geographic location. In a study for the United Kingdom’s Home Office (Gill & Spriggs, 2005), only one area of the 14 studied saw a drop in the number of incidents that could be attributed to CCTV.

Questions of trust seem to be the biggest factor militating against wearable devices that film other people who have not granted their consent to be recorded. Many people may not like to be photographed for reasons we don’t quite understand, but it remains their right to say, “No, leave me alone.” Others have no trouble being recorded by someone they know, so long as they know they are being recorded prior to the record button being pushed. Still others show utter indifference, claiming that there is no longer anything personal out in the open. Often, the argument is posed that anyone can watch anyone else walk down a street. This argument fails however: watching someone cross the road is not the same as recording them cross the road, whether by design or by sheer coincidence. Handing out requests for deletion every time someone asks whether they’ve been captured on camera is not good enough. Allowing people to opt out “after the fact” is not consent-based and violates fundamental human rights including the control individuals might have over their own image and the freedom to go about their life as they please (Bronitt & Michael, 2012).

Laws, Regulations, and Policies

At the present time, laws and regulations pertaining to surveillance and listening devices, privacy, telecommunications, crimes, and even workplace relations require amendments to keep pace with advancements in wearable and even implantable sensors. The police need to be viewed as enforcing the laws that they are there to upkeep, not to don the very devices they claim to be illegal. Policies in campus settings, such as universities, also need to address the seeming imbalance in what is, and is not, possible. The commoditization of such devices will only lead to even greater public interest issues coming to the fore. The laws are clearly outdated, and there is controversy over how to overcome the legal implications of emerging technologies.

Creating new laws for each new device will lead to an endless drafting of legislation, which is not practicable, and claiming that existing laws can respond to new problems is unrealistic, as users will seek to get around the law via loopholes in a patchwork of statutes. Cameras provide a power imbalance. Initially, only a few people had mobile phones with cameras: now they are everywhere. Then, only some people carried body-worn video recorders for extreme sports: now, increasingly, many are using a GoPro, Looxcie, or Taser Axon glasses. These devices, while still nascent, have been met with some acceptance, in various contexts including some business-centric applications. Photoborgs might feel they are “hitting back” at all the cameras on the walls that are recording 24×7, but this does not cancel out the fact that the photoborgs themselves are doing exactly what they are claiming a fixed, wall-mounted camera is doing to them.

Future Implications

All of the risks mentioned above are interrelated. If we lack privacy, we lose trust; if we lack security, we feel vulnerable; if we lose our anonymity, we lose a considerable portion of our liberty and when people lose their trust and their liberty, then they feel vulnerable. This kind of scenario is deeply problematic, and portends a higher incidence of depression, as people would not feel they had the freedom to act and be themselves, sharing their true feelings. Implications of this interrelatedness are presented in Figure 1.

Since 100% security does not exist in any technological system, privacy will always be a prominent issue. When security is lacking, privacy becomes an issue, individuals become more vulnerable and the anonymity of an individual comes into question. A loss of anonymity limits people’s liberty to act and speak as they want and eventually people start losing their trust in each other and in authorities. When the people are not free to express their true selves, they become withdrawn and despite a high-tech community, people may enter a state of despondency. The real question will be in the future when it is not people who are sporting these body-worn devices, but automated data collection machines like Knightscope’s K5 (Knightscope, 2016). These will indeed be mobile camera surveillance units, converging sousveillance and surveillance in one clean sweep (Perakslis et al., 2014).

Figure 1. Major implications of wearables: the utopian and dystopian views

Future Society

Mann (2013) argues that wearable sousveillance devices that are used in everyday life to store, access, transfer and share information will be commonplace, worn continuously and perhaps even permanently implanted. Michael and Michael (2012, p. 195) in their perception of the age of Überveillence state:

There will be a segment of the consumer and business markets who will adopt the technology for no clear reason and without too much thought, save for the fact that the technology is new and seems to be the way advanced societies are heading. This segment will probably not be overly concerned with any discernible abridgement of their human rights nor the small print ‘terms and conditions agreement’ they have signed, but will take an implant on the promise that they will have greater connectivity to the Internet, and to online services and bonus loyalty schemes more generally.

Every feature added on a wearable device adds another layer of risk to the pre-existing risks. Currently, we may only have capabilities to store, access, transfer and manipulate the gathered data but as the development of technology continues, context-aware software will be able to interpret vast amounts of data into meaningful information that can be used by unauthorized third parties. It is almost certain that the laws will not be able to keep up with the pace of the technology. Accordingly, individuals will have to be alert and aware, and private and public organizations will need to set rules and guidelines to protect their employees’ privacy, as well as their own.

Society’s ability to cope with the ethical and societal problems that technology raises has long been falling behind the development of such technology and the same can be said for laws and regulations. With no legal protection and social safe zone, members of society are threatened with losing their privacy through wearable technology. When the technology becomes widespread, privacy at work, in schools, in supermarkets, at the ATM, on the Internet, even when walking, sitting in a public space, and so on, is subject to perishability.

The future is already here and, since the development of technology is seemingly unstoppable, there is more to come, but for any possible futures that may come, there needs to be a healthy human factor. “For every expert there’s an equal and opposite expert” (Sowell, 1995, p. 102; also sometimes attributed to Arthur C. Clarke). So even as we are enthusiastic about how data collected through wearable technology will enhance the quality of our daily life, we also have to be cautious to think about our security and privacy issues in an era of ubiquitous wearable technology. In this sense, creating digital footprints of our social and personal lives with the possibility of them being exposed publicly do not seem to coincide with the idea of a “healthy society”.

One has to ponder: where next? Might we be arguing that we are nearing the point of total surveillance, as everyone begins to record everything around them for “just in case” reasons such as insurance protection, establishing liability, and complaint handling (much like the in-car black box recorder unit can clear you of wrongdoing in an accident)? How gullible might we become to think that images and video footage do not lie, even though a new breed of hackers might manipulate and tamper with digital reality to their own ends. The überveillance trajectory refers to the ultimate potentiality for embedded surveillance devices like swallowable pills with onboard sensors, tags, and transponder IDs placed in the subdermal layer of the skin (Michael & Michael, 2013). Will the new frontier be surveillance of the heart and mind?

Discussion Points

• Does sound recording by wearable devices present any ethical dilemmas?

• Are wearable still cameras more acceptable than wearable video cameras?

• What should one do if bystanders of a recording in a public space question why they are being recorded?

• What themes are evident in the videos and the comments on Surveillance Camera Man Channel at

• What is the difference between making a recording with a smartphone and with a head mounted camera?

• If one juxtaposes a surveillance camera covertly integrated into a light fixture, with an overt head-mounted camera, then why should the two devices elicit a different response from bystanders?

• In what ways is a CCTV in a restroom any different from a photoborg in a restroom?
• Are there gender differences in enthusiasm for certain wearables? Who are the innovators of these technologies?

• What dangers exist around Internet addiction, escapism, and living in a virtual world?

• Are we nearing the point of total information surveillance? Is this a good thing? Will it decrease criminal activity or are we nearing a Minority Report style future?

• Will the new frontier be surveillance of the heart and mind beyond anything Orwell could have envisioned?

• How can the law keep pace with technological change?

• Can federal and state laws be in contradiction over the rights of a photoborg? How?

• Watch the movie The Final Cut. Watch the drama The Entire History of You. What are the similiarities and differences? What does such a future mean for personal security and national security?

• Consider in small groups other scenarios where wearables would be welcome as opposed to unwelcome.

• In which locations should body-worn video cameras never be worn?


• What is meant by surveillance, sousveillance and überveillance?

• What is a photoborg? And what is “point of view” within a filming context?

• Research the related terms surveillance, dataveillance, and überveillence.

• What does Steve Mann’s “Request for Deletion” webpage say? Why is it largely untenable?

• Why did Google decide to focus on industry applications of Glass finally, and not the total market?

• Are we ready to see many (overt or covert) sousveillers in our everyday life?

• Will we all be photoborgs one day, or live in a society where we need to be?

• Do existing provisions concerning voyeurism cover all possible sousveillance situations?

• If lifelogs are streamed in real-time and near real-time what can bystanders shown do about the distribution of their images (if they are ever find out)?

• Is lifelong lifelogging feasible? Desirable? Should it be suspended in confidential business meetings, going through airport security and customs or other areas? Which areas?

• Should citizens film their encounters with police, given police are likely to be filming it too?

• Should the person using PoVS technology have more legal protection than persons they are monitoring?

• Are wearables likely to be rapidly adopted and even outpace smartphone use?


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Key Terms and Definitions

Body-Worn Video (BWV): These are cameras that are embedded in devices that can be worn on the body to record video, typically by law enforcement officers. Closed-Campus: Refers to any organization or institution that contains a dedicated building(s) on a bounded land parcel offering a range of online and offline services, such as banking, retail, sporting. Closed campus examples include schools and universities.

Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV): Also referred to as video surveillance. CCTV is the use of video cameras to transmit a signal to a specific place. CCTV cameras can be overt (obvious) or covert (hidden).

Digital Glass: Otherwise referred to as wearable eyeglasses which house multiple sensors on board. An example of digital glass is Google Glass. The future of digital glass may well be computer-based contact lenses.

Lifelogging: When a user decides to log his/her life using wearable computing or other devices, that have audio-visual capability. It is usually a continuous stream of a recording 24/7.

Personal Security Devices: These are devices that allegedly deter perpetrators from attacking others because they are always on gathering evidence, and ready to record. PSDs may have an on-board alarm alerting central care services for further assistance.

Policy: An enforceable set of organizational rules and principles used to aid decision-making that have penalties for non-compliance, such as the termination of an employee’s contract with an employer.

Private Space: Somewhere geographically that one has an expectation of privacy, naturally. Some examples include: the home, the backyard, and the restroom.

Public Space: Somewhere geographically where there is no expectation of privacy save for when someone holds a private conversation in a private context.

Sousveillance: The opposite of surveillance from above, which includes inverse surveillance, also sometimes described as person-to-person surveillance. Citizens can use sousveillance as a mechanism to keep law enforcement officers accountable for their actions.

Surveillance: “Watching from above” such as CCTV from business buildings. For behaviors, activities, or other changing information to be under the watchful eye of authority, usually for the purpose of influencing, managing, directing, or protecting the masses.

Citation: Michael, K., Gokyer, D., & Abbas, S. (2017). Societal Implications of Wearable Technology: Interpreting “Trialability on the Run”. In A. Marrington, D. Kerr, & J. Gammack (Eds.), Managing Security Issues and the Hidden Dangers of Wearable Technologies (pp. 238-266). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-5225-1016-1.ch010

Digital Wearability Scenarios: Trialability on the Run


What happens when experimental technologies are deployed into society by market leaders without much forethought of the consequences on everyday life? When state-based regulations are deliberately ignored by rapid innovation design practices, giving birth to unconventional and radical production, a whole series of impacts play out in real life. One such example is Google's Glass product: an optical head-mounted display unit that is effectively a wearable computer. In early 2013, Google reached out to U.S. citizens asking potential Glass users to send a Twitter message with the #IfIHadGlass hashtag to qualify for consideration and to pay US$1,500 for the product if numbered among the eligible for its early adoption. About 8,000 consumers in the United States allegedly were invited to purchase the Explorer edition of Glass. By April 2013, Google had opened up Glass to its “Innovation in the Open” (I/O) developer community, and by May 2014, they allowed purchases of the product from anywhere in the world.

The early adopters of the open beta product quickly became tech evangelists for the Google brand. As was expected, the touted benefits of Glass, by the self-professed “Glassholes,” were projected as mainstream benefits to society via YouTube and Hangout. Tech-savvy value-added service providers who stood to gain from the adoption and citizens who wished to be recognized as forward-thinking, entrepreneurial, and cool came to almost instantaneous fame. There were, however, only a few dissenting voices that were audible during the trialability phase of diffusion, with most people in society either not paying much attention to “yet another device launch” by Google or ignoring folk who were just geeks working on hip stuff. About the biggest thought people had when confronted by one of these “glasses” in reality was “What's that?” followed by “Are you recording me?” The media played an interesting role in at least highlighting some of the potential risks of the technology, but for the most part, Glass was depicted as a next-generation technology that was here now and that even Australia's own then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard had to try out. Yep, another whiz-bang product that most of us would not dare to live without.

With apparently no limits set, users of Glass have applied the device to diverse contexts, from the operating theater in hospitals to preschools in education and evidence gathering in policing. Yes, it is here, right now. Google claims no responsibility for how its product is applied by individual consumers, and why should they—they're a tech company, right? Caveat emptor! But from the global to the local, Glass has received some very mixed reactions from society at large.

Scenario-Planning Approach

This article focuses on the social-ethical implications of Glass-style devices in a campus setting. It uses secondary sources of evidence to inspire nine short scenarios that depict a plausible “day in the life” of a person possessing a body-worn video camera. A scenario is “an internally consistent view of what the future might turn out to be” [1]. One gleans the current state of technology to map the future trajectory [2, p. 402]. Scenarios allow us two distinct qualities as researchers: 1) an opportunity to anticipate possible and desirable changes to society by the introduction of a new technology known as proactivity and 2) an opportunity to prepare for action before a technology is introduced into the mainstream, known as preactivity [3, p. 8]. While change is inevitable as technology develops and is diffused into society, we should be able to assess possible strategic directions to better prepare for expected changes and, to an extent, unexpected changes. This article aims to raise awareness of the possible social, cultural, and ethical implications of body-worn video recorders. It purposefully focuses on signs of threats and opportunities that body-worn recording devices presently raise in a campus setting such as a university [1, p. 59]. A similar approach was used successfully in [4] with respect to location-based services in 2007.

In February 2013, Katina and M.G. Michael were invited to write an opinion piece about the ethics of wearable cameras for Communications of the ACM (CACM) [5]. Upon the article's acceptance in September of the same year, the CACM editor provided the option of submitting a short video to accompany the article online, to act as a summary of the issues addressed. Encouraged by the University of Wollongong's videographer, Adam Preston from Learning, Teaching and Curriculum, after some initial correspondence on prospective scenarios, it was jointly decided to simulate the Glass experience with a head-mounted GoPro camera [6] and to discuss on camera some of the themes presented in the article within a university campus setting (Figure 1). A few months prior, in June, Katina hosted the International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS13) with wearable pioneer Prof. Steve Mann [7]. Ethics approval for filming the three-day international symposium with a variety of wearable recorders was gained from the University of Wollongong's Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) for the University of Toronto-based event. Importantly, it must be emphasized that the scenarios themselves are fictitious in terms of the characters and continuity. They did not happen in the manner stated, but, like a tapestry, they have been woven together to tell a larger story. That story is titled: “Recording on the Run.” Each scenario can be read in isolation, but, when placed side by side with other scenarios, becomes a telling narrative of what might be with respect to societal implications if such recording devices proliferate.

Figure 1. A GoPro device clipped to an elastine headband ready to mount on a user. Photo courtesy of Katina Michael.

Figure 1. A GoPro device clipped to an elastine headband ready to mount on a user. Photo courtesy of Katina Michael.

Having hired the videographer for 2 h to do the filming for CACM, we preplanned a walkthrough on the University of Wollongong's campus (Figure 2). Deniz Gokyer (Figures 3 and 4) was approached to participate in the video to play the protagonist GoPro wearer, as he was engaged in a master's major project on wearables in the School of Information Systems and Technology. Lifelogging Web sites such as that publish point-of-view (POV) video content direct from a mobile device were also used to support claims made in the scenarios. The key question pondered at the conclusion of the scenarios is, how do we deal with the ever-increasing complexity in the global innovation environment that continues to emerge around us with seemingly no boundaries whatsoever? The scenarios are deliberately not interpreted by the authors to allow for debate and discussion. The primary purpose of the article was to demonstrate that body-worn recording products can have some very significant expected and unexpected side effects, additionally conflicting with state laws and regulations and campus-based policies and guidelines.

Figure 2. (a) The making of a short video to discuss the ethical implications of wearable devices for CACM. (b) The simultaneous GoPro view emanating from the user's head-mounted device. Screenshots courtesy of Adam Preston.

Figure 2. (a) The making of a short video to discuss the ethical implications of wearable devices for CACM. (b) The simultaneous GoPro view emanating from the user's head-mounted device. Screenshots courtesy of Adam Preston.

Figure 3. Deniz Gokyer simulating an ATM withdrawal while wearing a GoPro. Photo courtesy of Adam Preston.

Figure 3. Deniz Gokyer simulating an ATM withdrawal while wearing a GoPro. Photo courtesy of Adam Preston.

Figure 4. The aftereffect of wearing a GoPro mounted on an elastic band for 2 h. Photo courtesy of Katina Michael.

Figure 4. The aftereffect of wearing a GoPro mounted on an elastic band for 2 h. Photo courtesy of Katina Michael.

Recording on the Run

Scenario 1: The Lecture

Anthony rushed into his morning lecture on structures some 10 min late. Everyone had their heads down taking copious notes and listening to their dedicated professor as he provided some guidance on how to prepare for the final examination, which was worth 50% of their total mark. Anthony was mad at himself for being late, but the bus driver had not accepted his AUD$20 note in lieu of the Opal Card now available. Prof. Markson turned to the board and began writing the practice equations wildly, knowing that he had so much to get through. Anthony made sure to keep his hands free of anything that would sidetrack him. Instead, he recorded the lecture with a GoPro on his head. Some of the girls giggled in the back row as he probably looked rather stupid, but the laughter soon subsided and everyone got back to work, copying down Markson's examples. At one stage, Markson turned to look at what the giggles were about, made startling eye contact with Anthony, and probably thought to himself: “What's that? Whatever it is, it's not going to help him pass—nothing but calculators are allowed in exam situations.”

Anthony caught sight of Sophie, who motioned for him to go to the back row, but by then, he thought it would probably be better recording from the very front and he would cause less disruption by just sitting there. Markson was a little behind the times when it came to innovation in teaching, but he was a brilliant lecturer and tutor. Anthony thought to himself, if anyone asks for the recording, he would make sure that it would be available to them. The other students took note of the device that was firmly strapped to his head with a band but were somewhat unphased. Anthony had always argued that recording with a GoPro is nothing more than recording with a mobile phone. He surfed a lot at Austinmer Beach, and he thought the video he took of himself on the board was just awesome, even though his girlfriend thought it was vain. It was like a motion selfie.

Scenario 2: The Restroom

It had been one long day, practically like any other, save for the fact that today Anthony had chosen to wear the GoPro on a head-mounted bandana to record his lectures. They were in the serious part of the session, and he wanted to make sure that he had every opportunity to pass. Anthony was so tired from pulling an all-nighter with assessment tasks that he didn't even realize that he had walked into the restroom toward the end of his morning lecture with the device switched on and recording everything in full view. Lucky for him, no one had been accidentally caught on film while in midstream. Instead, as he walked in, he was greeted by someone who was walking out and a second guy who avoided eye contact but likely noticed the camera on Anthony's head from the reflection in the mirror while washing his hands. The third one didn't even care but just kept on doing what he was doing, and the fourth locked his eyes to the camera with rage for a while. They didn't speak, but Anthony could sense what he thought—“what the heck?” Anthony was an attractive young man who sported tattoos and always tried to look different in some way. He hated conformity. Now that he had watched the video to extract the lecture material, he wondered why no one had stopped him to punch the living daylights out of him in the restroom. Anthony had thought people were getting used to the pervasiveness of cameras everywhere—not just in the street and in lecture theaters but also in restrooms and probably soon in their homes as well.

Scenario 3: The Corridor

By this time, Anthony was feeling rather hungry. In fact, he was so hungry that he was beginning to feel very weak. All of those late nights were beginning to catch up now. Sophie demanded that they go eat before the afternoon lecture. As they walked out of the main tower building, they bumped into an acquaintance from the previous session. Oxford, as he was known by his Aussie name, was always polite. The conversation went something like this. “Hello Oxford! How are you?” said Sophie. Oxford replied, “I'm fine, thank you. Good to see you guys!” Sophie quickly pointed to Anthony's head-mounted camera and said, “Oxford, can you believe how desperate Anthony has become? He's even recording his lectures with this thing now!” Oxford, who was surprised, remarked, “Oh yeah. I've never seen one of these before. Are you recording right now, Anthony?” “Yes, I am,” Anthony affirmed, “but to be honest, I completely forgot about it—I'm dreaming about food right now.” Anthony patted his tummy, which was by now making grumbling noises. “Want to come with us to the café near the gymnasium?” Anthony asked.

“He just filmed most of the structures lecture—I'm thinking like, this might be the coolest thing that might stick,” Sophie reflected, ignoring Anthony. “No kidding,” Oxford said, “You're recording me right now? I'm not exactly thrilled about this, but ‘hi,’ for what it's worth.” Oxford waved to the camera and smiled. Sophie interjected, “Oxford, it is not like he's making a movie of you, haha!” Sophie grabbed Oxford's arm to pull it toward her—the jab was signified to make it clear she was joking. But suddenly, things became serious instead of lighter. Oxford continued, “No, I'm not quite good in front of the camera…like I don't like pictures being taken of me or even recordings of my voice. It's probably the way I was raised back home.”

Anthony told Oxford not to worry because he was not looking at him, and so, therefore, nothing but his voice was really being recorded. Little did he realize that was breaking local New South Wales laws, or at least that was what he would find out later in the day when someone from security spotted him on campus. Sophie asked with curiosity, “Do you think someone should ask you if they want to record you on campus?” Oxford thought that was a no brainer—“Of course they should ask. You're wearing this thing on your head, and there's nothing telling people passing by whether you are watching them and recording them. C'mon Anthony, you're a smart guy, you should know this stuff; you're studying engineering, aren't you? We're supposed to be the ones that think of everything before it actually happens. You might as well be a walking CCTV camera.” There was dead silence among the friends. Then Anthony blurted out, “But I'm not watching you; you just happen to be in my field of view.”

Sophie began to consider the deeper implications while Anthony was getting flustered. He wanted to eat, and they were just beginning a philosophical conversation. “C'mon Oxford, come with us, we're starving…and we can talk more at lunch, even though we should be studying.” As they walked, Sophie continued: “It's not like this is the worst form of camera that could be watching. I saw this thing on the news a couple of weeks ago. The cameras are getting tinier; you cannot even see them. The company was called OzSpy, I think, and they're importing cheap stuff from Asia, but I don't think it's legal in every state. The cameras are now embedded in USBs, wristbands, pens, keyfobs, bags, and t-shirts. How do you know you're being recorded with that kind of stuff?” Oxford was beginning to feel uneasy. Anthony felt like taking off the contraption but left it on because he was just too lazy to put the thing back in its box and then back on again in less than 2 h. Oxford confessed again: “I feel uncomfortable around cameras, and it's not because I'm doing anything wrong.” They walked quietly for a few minutes and then got to the café. Sophie pointed to the wall as they queued. “Look up there. It's not like we're not always under surveillance. What's the difference if it is on a building wall versus on someone's head?”

Anthony wished they'd change the subject because it was starting to become a little boring to him. Oxford thoughtfully replied to Sophie, “Maybe it's your culture or something, but I even wave to CCTV cameras because it's only for security to see on campus. But if someone else is recording me, I don't know how he or she will use the footage against me. I don't like that at all. I think if you're recording me to show other people, then I don't think it's okay at all.” Sophie chuckled, “Hey, Oxford, this way Anthony will never forget you even when you have finished your degree and return to Thailand in ten years; when he is rich and famous, he'll remember the good old days.” The truth was that Oxford never wanted to return to Thailand; he liked the opportunities in Australia but added, “Okay, so you will remember me and my voice forever.”

By this time, Anthony was at the front of the queue. “Guys, can we forget about this now? I need to order. Okay, Oxford, I promise to delete it if that makes you feel better.” Oxford said, “No, Anthony, you don't understand me. I don't mind if you keep this for old times sake, but just don't put it on the Internet. I mean don't make it public, that's all. Guys, I just remembered I have to go and return some library books so I don't get a fine. It's been nice chatting. Sorry I cannot stay for lunch. Good luck in your finals—let's catch up and do something after exams.” “Sure thing,” Sophie said. “See ya.” As Oxford left and Anthony ordered food, she exclaimed, “Your hair is going to be great on the video!” Oxford replied, “I know my hair is always great, but this jacket I am wearing is pretty old.” Oxford continued from afar, “Anthony, remind me to wear something nicer next time. Bye now.” Sophie waved as Oxford ran into the distance.

Scenario 4: Ordering at the Cafe

Anthony ordered a cappuccino and his favorite chicken and avocado toastie. The manager, who was in his 50s, asked for Anthony's name to write on the cup. “That will be 10 note and waited for change. “And how are you today?” asked the manager. “I'm fine thanks.” “Yeah, good,” replied the manager, “Okay, see you later, and have a good one.” Anthony muttered, “I'll try.” Next it was Sophie's turn to order. “What's up with him?” asked the café manager. “What's that thing on his head? He looks like a goose.” Sophie cracked up laughing and struck up a conversation with the manager. She was known to be friendly to everyone.

Anthony went to the service area waiting for his cappuccino and toastie. For once, the line was not a mile long. The male attendant asked Anthony, “What's with the camera?” By then, Anthony had decided that he'd play along—sick of feeling like he had to defend himself, yet again. He wasn't holding a gun after all. What was the big deal? He replied, “What's with the camera, mate? Well, I'm recording you right now.” “Oh, okay, awesome,” said the male attendant. Anthony probed, “How do you feel about that?” The male attendant answered, “Well, I don't really like it man.” “Yeah, why not?” asked Anthony, trying to figure out what all the hoo-ha was about. There were CCTV cameras crawling all over campus, and many of them were now even embedded in light fixtures.

“Hey, Josie, Josie—how do you feel about being filmed?” exclaimed the male attendant to the female barista cheekily. “I don't really mind. I always wanted to be an actress when I was little, here's my chance!” “Yeah?!” asked Anthony, in a surprised tone. “Are you filming me right now? Are you going to make me look real good?” laughed the barista in a frisky voice. Anthony smiled and, by then, Sophie had joined him at the service area, a little jealous. “What's this for?” asked Josie. She had worked on campus for a long time and was used to serving all sorts of weirdos. “No reason. I just filmed my structures class. And now, well now, I've just decided to keep the camera rolling.” Josie asked again, “Are you really filming me right now?” Anthony reaffirmed, “Yes.”

Sophie looked on in disbelief. The camera had just become the focal point for flirtation. She wasn't liking it one bit. Josie asked Anthony again, “Why are you filming?” Anthony didn't know why he blurted out what he did but he said, “Umm…to sort of get the reactions of people. Like how they act when they see someone actually recording them.” The male attendant interrupted, “You know what you should do? You should go up to him,” pointing to the manager, “and just stare at him, like just stare him in the face.” “I will, I will,” said Anthony. Egging Anthony on, the male attendant smiled, “Stand in front of the queue there, and just stare at him. He'll love it, he'll love it, trust me. You'd make his day man.” “Hey, where's my cappuccino and toastie?” demanded Anthony. The male attendant handed the food over and got Sophie's food ready too. “And this must be yours.” “Yes,” Sophie replied. The male attendant insisted: “Focus on him now, don't focus on me, all right?” “Yup, ok, see you later. Cheers.” Anthony felt a little diminished; although he was surprised that the barista talked to him for as long as she did, he wasn't about to pick a fight with an old bloke. What he was doing was harmless, he thought; he left the counter to take a seat, but considered switching off the device.

Scenario 5: Finding a Table at the Cafe

Sophie found a table with two seats left in a sunny spot and put her things down. Lack of sleep during exam time meant that everyone generally felt cold. Anthony sat down also. At the large oblong table was a small group of three—two girls and a guy. Sophie went looking for serviettes, as they forgot them at the counter. As soon as Anthony pulled up a chair to sit down, one of the girls got up and said, “And you have a lovely afternoon.” Anthony replied, “Thank you and you too.” Speechless, the other two students at the table picked up whatever was left of their drinks and left not long after. As Sophie returned, she saw the small group leaving and whispered, “Anthony, maybe you should take that thing off. You're getting quite a bit of attention. It's not good. A joke's a joke. Alright, I could cope with the classroom situation, but coming to the café and telling people you're recording. Surely, you are not, right? You're just kidding, right?” “Listen, Sophie, I'm recording you now. The battery pack lasts a while, about an hour, before it needs replacing. I'm going to have to charge the backup during the next lecture.” “Anthony,” Sophie whined, “c'mon, just turn it off.” Anthony acted like he was turning it off reluctantly although he had not. “Now put it away,” Sophie insisted. “No, I'm going to leave it on my head,” Anthony said. “I couldn't be bothered, to tell you honestly. Just don't forget to remind me to turn it back on when we are in class.” “Good,” said Sophie.

By then, two girls asked if they could sit down at the table. “Sure,” said Sophie. The girls were known to Sophie, at the Residence but they merely exchanged niceties. “My name is Klara,” said one of the girls. “And my name is Cygneta,” said the other. “I'm Sophie, and this is my boyfriend Anthony. Nice to finally get to talk to you. That'd be right. Just when we should all be studying, we're procrastinating and socializing.” Anthony was happy for the change of conversation, so he thought.

“I know what that is, Anthony! It's a GoPro,” Cygneta exclaimed. “Sophie, Sophie, I wouldn't let my man carry that thing around on campus filming all those pretty ladies.” Cygneta giggled childishly, and Klara joined her in harmony but did not know anything about the contraption on Anthony's head. Sophie was reminded why she had never bothered approaching Cygneta at the Residence. Those two were inseparable and always too cute—the typical creative arts and marketing students. Sophie retorted, “Well, he's not filming right now. He just filmed the lecture we were in.” Anthony made Sophie think twice. “How do you know I'm not filming right now?” Sophie said, “Because the counter on the LCD is not ticking.” Cygneta had used a GoPro to film her major project and knew that you could toggle the LCD not to show a counter, sharing this with the group. Sophie didn't like it one bit. It made her doubt Anthony.

Anthony proceeded to ask Klara, “How do you feel when you see someone recording you?” “Yeah, not great. I feel, like, really awkward,” confessed Klara. Then Anthony asked the million dollar question: “What if most people wore a Google Glass on campus and freed themselves of having to carry an iPhone?” Klara at this point was really confused. “Google what?” Sophie repeated, “Google Glass” in unison with Anthony. Shaking her head from side to side, Klara said, “Nah, I'm not into that kind of marketing at all.” “But it's the perfect marketing tool to gather information,” considered Anthony. “Maybe you're going to start using it one day as well? Don't you think?” Klara looked at Sophie and Anthony and replied, “What do you mean? Sorry?” Anthony repeated, “Do you reckon you're gonna be using Google Glass in a couple of years?” Klara turned to Cygneta for advice. “What in the world is Google Glass? It sounds dangerous?” Anthony explained, “It's a computer that you can wear as glasses. But it's a computer at the same time.” Klara let out a sigh. “I had no idea that even existed, and I think I'm a good marketing student and on top of things.”

By this stage, Sophie was feeling slighted and decided to finish her food, which was now cold. Anthony, caught off guard by Klara's lack of awareness, reaffirmed, “So you don't reckon you'd be wearing glasses that can record and works as a phone or a headband capable of reading brain waves?” Cygneta said, “Probably not,” and Klara also agreed, “No. I like my phone just fine. At least I can choose when I want to switch it off. Who knows what could happen with these glasses? It's a bit too out there for me. That stuff's for geeks, I think. And anyway, there's nothing interesting in my life to capture—just one big boring stream of uni, work, and home.”

Sophie pointed out an interesting fact: “Hey girls, did you know that there's no law in Australia that forbids people from video recording others in public? If it's happening out on the street, then it ain't private.” Cygneta replied, “Yeah I heard this news the other day; one of the ministers was caught on video heavily cursing to another minister when he was listening to his speech. He was waiting for his turn to give a speech of his own, apparently, and he didn't even notice someone was recording him. What an idiot!”

Sophie asked Anthony to accompany her to the bank. Lunch was almost over, and the lecture was now less than an hour away. The pair had not studied, although at the very next table was a group of six buried in books from the structures class. Klara and Cygneta went to order a meal at the café and said goodbye. Anthony reluctantly got up from the table and followed Sophie to the study group. Sophie bravely asked, “Anyone got any solutions yet to the latest practice questions?” People looked up, and the “little master,” who was codenamed for his genius, said, “Not yet.” None of the other engineering students, mostly of Asian background, could even care less about the camera mounted on Anthony's head. Sophie found this disturbing and startling. She immediately thought about those little drones being developed and how men seemed to purchase these toys way more than any woman she knew. Who knows what the future would hold for humankind, she thought. Maybe the guys would end up loving their machines so much they'd forget spending time with real people! Sophie liked the challenge of engineering, but it was at times strange to be in a room full of guys.

The power to exclude, delete, or misrepresent an event is with the wearer and not the passive passerby.

Scenario 6: A Visit to the C.A.B. Bank

Sophie was beginning to really tire of the GoPro shenanigans. She asked Anthony to wait outside the bank since he would not take off the contraption. Sophie was being pushed to the limit. Stressed out with exams coming up and a boyfriend who seemed preoccupied with proving a point, whatever that point was, she just needed things to go smoothly at the bank. Luckily this was the less popular bank on campus, and there was hardly anyone in it. Sophie went right up to the attendant but called out for Anthony to help her with her bag while she rummaged in her handbag for her driver's license. Anthony sat down on one of the sitting cubes and, looking up, realized he was now in the “being recorded” position in the bank himself. One attendant left the bank smiling directly into the camera and at Anthony. He thought, “How's that for security?” The third teller leaned over the screen and asked Anthony, “Is there anything we can help you with?” Anthony said, “I'm waiting for my girlfriend,” which seemed to appease the teller too easily.

It was now time for Sophie to withdraw money at the teller. Anthony really didn't mind because Sophie was always there to support him, no matter how long it took. They reflected that they had not more than 30 min left to do a couple more errands, including visit the ATM and go to the library. There were four people in the queue at the ATM. Anthony grabbed Sophie's hand and whispered in her ear, “Sophie, do you realize something? If I was recording right now, I'd be able to see all the PIN numbers of all the people in front of us.” Sophie shushed Anthony. “You're going to get us in trouble today. Enough's enough.” “No really, Sophie, we've got to tell security. They're worried about tiny cameras looking down and skimming devices, but what about the cameras people are wearing now?” Sophie squeezed Anthony's hand—“Anthony, you are going to get us in serious trouble. And this is not the time to be saving the world from cybercriminals.” Anthony moved away from the queue, realizing that his face was probably being recorded on CCTV. The last thing he ever wanted was to be in trouble. He went to instantly budge the GoPro off his head; it was becoming rather hot even though it had been a cool day, and it was beginning to feel uncomfortable and heavy on his back and neck muscles. By the time he could get his act together, Sophie had made her transaction and they were hurriedly off to the library just before class.

Scenario 7: In the Library

As they rushed into the library to get some last-minute resources, Anthony and Sophie decided to split up. Sophie was going to the reserved collection to ask for access to notes that the special topics lecturer had put on closed reserve, and Anthony was going to do some last-minute bibliographic searches for the group assignment that was due in a few days. Why was it that things were always crammed into the last two weeks of the session? How on earth was any human being able to survive those kinds of demands? Anthony grabbed Sophie's bag and proceeded to the front computers. It was packed in the library because everyone was trying to do their final assignments. As Anthony hovered behind the other students, he remembered the shoulder-surfing phenomenon he had considered at the ATM. It was exactly the same. Anthony made sure not to look forward. As soon as there was an empty computer, he'd be next. He conducted some library searches standing up and then spotted two guys moving away from a sit-down desk area. Given all the stuff he was carrying, he thought he'd ask the guys nearby if they had finished. They said yes and tried to vacate the space as fast as they could, being courteous to Anthony's needs. By this time, Anthony was also sweating profusely and had begun to look stressed out.

The cameras are now embedded in USBs, wristbands, pens, keyfobs, bags, and t-shirts.

Anthony dumped his stuff on the ground, and the shorter of the two men said, “Are you wearing a camera on your head?” Anthony muttered to himself, “Oh no, not again.” Had he been able to take the device off his head effortlessly, he would have. After wearing it for over 2 h straight, it had developed an octopus-like suction to his forehead. “Yeah, yeah, it's a camera.” This camera had brought him nothing but bad luck all day. Okay, so he had taped most of the first lecture in the morning, but it had not been any good since. Sophie was angry with him over the café discussions, Oxford was not interested in being filmed without his knowledge, and Anthony's shoulders were really starting to ache and he was developing a splitting headache. “You guys would not happen to be from civil engineering?” Anthony asked in the hope that he and Sophie might get some hints for the forthcoming group assignment. “Nah, we're from commerce.” Both men walked away after saying goodbye, and Anthony was left to ponder. Time was running out quickly, so he left his things where they were and decided to go to the desk and ask for help directly.

“Hello, I am wondering if you would be willing to help me. My name is Anthony, and I am doing research on…” The librarian studied Anthony's head closely. “Umm…can I just ask what's happening here? Please tell me you are not recording this conversation,” asked the librarian politely. “What?” said Anthony, completely oblivious to the camera mounted on his head. He then came to his senses. “Oh that? That's just a GoPro. I've not got it on. See?” He brought his head nearer to the librarian, who put on her glasses. “Now, I'm looking for…” “I'm sorry, young man, I'm going to have to call down the manager on duty. You just cannot come into the library looking like that. In fact, even onto campus.”

Anthony felt like all of his worst nightmares were coming true. He felt like running, but his and Sophie's belongings were at the cubicle and besides, the library security CCTV had been recording for the last few minutes. His parents would never forgive him if anything jeopardized his studies. Sophie was still likely photocopying in closed reserve. What would she think if she came out to be greeted by all this commotion? The manager of “The Library”—oh he felt a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. Anthony knew he had done nothing wrong, but that was not the point at this time. The librarian seemed less informed than even he was of his citizen rights, and while she was on the phone, hurriedly trying to get through to the manager, Sophie returned with materials.

“Where are our bags? My laptop is in there Anthony.” Anthony signaled over to the cubicle, didn't go into details, and asked Sophie to return to the desk to do some more searches while he was with the librarian. Surprisingly, she complied immediately given the time on the clock. Anthony was relieved. “Look,” he said to the librarian, “I am not crazy, and I know what I am doing is legal.” She gestured to him to wait until she got off the phone. “Right-o, so the manager's at lunch, and so I'll have to have a chat with you. First and foremost, when you're taking footage of the students, you need permission and all that sort of thing. I'm just here to clarify that to you.” “Look, umm, Sue, I'm not recording right now, so I guess I can wear whatever I want and look as stupid as I want so long as I'm not being a public nuisance.” “Young man, can I have your student ID card please?” Anthony claimed he did not have one with him, but was trying to avoid returning back to where Sophie was to get hit with even more questions. Anthony proceeded by providing the librarian his full name.

“Well, Anthony Fielding, it is against university policy to go around recording people in a public or private space,” stated the librarian firmly. Anthony, by now, had enough. “Look, Sue, for the second time, I've not recorded anyone in the library. I did record part of my lecture today with this device. It is called a GoPro. Why hasn't anyone but me heard about it?” “Well we have heard of Google Glass here, and we know for now, we don't want just anyone waltzing around filming indiscriminately. That doesn't help anyone on campus,” the librarian responded. “Okay, based on my experience today, I know you are right,” Anthony admitted. “But can you at least point me toward a library policy that clearly stipulates what we can and cannot do with cameras? And why is this kind of camera one that you're alarmed about rather than a more flexible handheld one like this one?” Anthony pulled out his iPhone 6. The librarian seemed oblivious to what Anthony was trying to argue. Meanwhile, Anthony glanced over to Sophie half-smiling, indicating they will have to make a move soon by pointing at his watch and then the exit.

“Look, I know you mean well. But…” Anthony was interrupted again by the librarian. “Anthony Fielding, it is very important you understand what I am about to tell you; otherwise you might end up getting yourself in quite a bit of trouble. If you're recording students, you actually have to inform the student and ask if it's okay, because quite a lot of them are hesitant about being filmed.” Anthony retorted, “I know, I know, do unto others as you'd have them do unto you, but I already told you, I'm not recording…But which policy do you want to refer me to and I'll go and read it, I promise.” The librarian hesitated and murmured behind her computer, “Ah…I'll have to look…look…look and find it for you, but I just…I just know that…” The librarian realized the students were going to be late for a lecture. “Look, if you're right and there is no policy, assuming I've not made an error, then we need to develop one.” “Look, Sue, I don't mean to be rude, but we've already filmed in a lecture theater today. I wouldn't call a public theater, private in any capacity. Sure people can have private conversations in a theater, but they shouldn't be talking about private things unless they want to actively share it during class discussion time.” “Look, that's a bit of a gray area,” the librarian answered. “I think I am going to have to ask security to come over. It's just that I don't think the safety of others is being put first. For starters, you should take that thing off.” Anthony realized that things were now serious. He attempted to take off the band, which was soaking wet from sweat given his latest predicament.

Sophie realized something was wrong when she was walking with the bags back to the information desk. “Anthony, what's happening?” Sophie had a worried look on her face. “I've been asked to wait for security,” said Anthony. “Can you please not worry and just leave for class? I won't feel so bad if you go on without me.” Sophie responded, “Anthony, I told you this thing was trouble—you should have just taken it off—oh Anthony!” “What now?” said Anthony. “Your forehead…are you okay? It's all red and wrinkly and sweaty. Are you feeling okay?” Sophie put her hand on Anthony's forehead and realized he was running a fever. “Look, is this really necessary? My boyfriend has not done anything wrong. He's taken off the device. If you want to see the lecture footage, we'll show you. But really, the guy has to pass this subject. Please can we go to the lecture theater?” The librarian was unequivocally unemotional. Anthony looked at Sophie and she nodded okay and left for class with all the bags. “Please ring me if you need anything, and I'll be here in a flash.” Sophie kissed Anthony goodbye.

Scenario 8: Security on Campus

Moments later, security arrived on the scene. Anthony challenged the security guards and emphasized that he had done nothing wrong. Anthony was escorted back to the security office on campus some 500 m away. At this point, he was told he was not being detained, that simply university security staff were going to have a chat with him. Anthony became deeply concerned when several security staff greeted him at the front desk. They welcomed him inside and asked him to take a seat and whether or not he'd like a cup of coffee.

“Anthony, there have been a spate of thefts on campus of late. We'd like to ask you where you got your GoPro camera.” “Well, it was a birthday present from my older brother a few months ago,” Anthony explained. “He knows I've always made home movies from when I was a youngster, and he thought I might use it to film my own skateboarding stunts.” “Right,” said the police officer, “Could you let me take a look at the serial number at the bottom of the unit?” “Sure,” said Anthony, “and then can I go? I haven't stolen anything.” The security staff inspected the device and checked the serial number against their database, handing it back to Anthony. “Ok, you're free to go now.” “What? And I thought you were going to interrogate me for the footage I took today!”

“Look Anthony, that's a delicate issue. Yeah, under the Surveillance Devices Act, for you to be able to record somebody you need their explicit permission, which is why you'll see wherever we've got cameras we've got signage that states you're being filmed, and even then we've got a strict policy about what we do with the recordings. We can't let anybody view it unless it's police and so on, but it's really strict.” Anthony replied, “What happens when Google Glass begins to proliferate on campus? The GoPro, which will be obvious, won't be what you're looking out for but rather Glass being misused or covert devices.” “Look, security, the way it works at universities is that you are concerned with the here and now. I can't predict what will happen in about three months' time, right?” At this point Anthony was thinking about his lecture and how he was running late, yet again, however, this time through no fault of his own.

“Is she with you?” asked the security manager. “Who do you mean?” questioned Anthony. “That young lady over there,” the manager replied, pointing through the screen door. “Oh, that's my girlfriend, Sophie. I reckon she was worried about me and came to see what was going on.” Sophie had her iPhone out and was recording the goings on. Anthony just had to ask, “Am I right? Is my girlfriend allowed to do that? She isn't trespassing. The university campus is a public space for all to enjoy.” The security manager replied, “Actually, she's recording me, but she's not really allowed to do that without giving me some sort of notification. We might have cameras crawling all over this campus for student and staff safety, but our laws state if people don't want to be recorded, then you should not be recording them. On top of this, you would probably realize that when you walk around the campus in large areas like the walkways, they're actually facing the road, they're not facing people. So yes, you need permission for what she's doing there or adequate signage explaining what is going on.”

Sophie put the phone down and knocked on the door. “Can I come inside?” “Of course you can,” said the security manager. “Join the party!” “Anthony, Prof. Gabriel is asking for you; otherwise, he'll count you absent and you won't get your 10% participation mark for the session. I told him I knew where you were. If we get back within 15 min, you're off the hook.” “Hang on Sophie,” Anthony continued, “I'd like to solve this problem now to avoid any future misunderstandings. After all, I'm about to enter the classroom and record it for my own learning and progress. What do you think? Is that against the law?” Anthony asked the security manager. The security manager pondered for a long while. “Look, we get lots and lots of requests asking us to investigate the filming of an individual; we take that very seriously. But there is no law against that taking place in a public space.” “Is a lecture theater a public space?” Anthony prompted. The security manager replied, “I think you should be allowed to use headmounted display video cameras if it's obvious what you're doing and unless a bystander asks you to cease recording. The lecture rooms are open and are usually mixed with the reception areas, which makes them public areas; so if you want to gain access to the room, obviously you can because it's a public area. You don't have to use a swipe card to get in, you see. But then there are still things that you can't do in a public area, like you can't ride a bicycle in there; or if someone is giving a lecture, you can't interrupt the lecture. That sort of thing.”

Anthony started speaking from the experience of his day. “I was queueing in front of the ATM today, and I realized that I could easily see the activities of the people in front of me and the same in the library. When I hover around somebody's computer, I can see their screen and what they're up to on the Internet. It bothered even me after my experience today; unintentionally I'm seeing someone's ATM PIN number, I'm seeing someone searching on Google about how to survive HIV, which is personal and highly sensitive private stuff. No one should be seeing that. I just wore my GoPro to record my lecture for study purposes, but these kinds of devices in everyday life must be very disturbing for the people being recorded. That's why I'm curious what would happen on campus.” The security manager interrupted, “We already have some policies in place. For example, you can make a video recording, but what are you going to do with it? Are you going to watch it yourself or are you going to e-mail it around? You can't do that using your university e-mail account. You can't download, transfer, or copy videos using university Internet, your university account, or your university e-mail account. Look it up; there are also rules about harassment…It's fairly strict and already organized in that regard. But if you're asking where the university is applying policies, you're asking the wrong people because we don't get involved in policy making. You should be talking to the legal department. We don't make the policies; we just follow the procedures. Every citizen of this nation also has to abide by state and federal laws.”

The explanation satisfied Anthony. He realized that the security manager was not the person to talk to for any further inquiries. “Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions; you've been very helpful,” Anthony said as he headed to the door to attend his class with Sophie. He did need that 10% attendance mark from Prof. Gabriel if he wanted to be in the running for a Distinction grade.

Scenario 9: Sophie's Lecture

After their last lecture together, Anthony was happy thinking he was almost done for the day and he would be heading back home but Sophie had one more hour of tutorial. Anthony walked Sophie to her last tutorial's classroom. “C'mon Anthony, it'll only take half an hour tops. After this class, we can leave together; bear with it for just a while,” Sophie insisted. “Okay,” said Anthony; his mind was overflowing with the thought of the final exams and questions raised in his mind by his unique experience with the GoPro all day.

They arrived a few minutes late. Sophie quietly opened the door as Anthony walked in behind her. The lecturer took a glimpse of Anthony with the GoPro on his head. The lecturer asked Anthony, “Are you in this class?” “No, I'm just with a friend,” replied Anthony as he was still trying to walk in and take a seat. “Okay and you're wearing a camera?” “Yeah?!” Anthony replied, confused by the tone of the lecturer. “Take it off!” the lecturer exclaimed. “You don't have permission to wear a camera in my class!” Silence fell over the classroom. As the lecturer's tone became more aggravated, everyone stopped, trying to understand what was going on. “Ok, but it's not…” The lecturer refused to hear any explanation. “You're not supposed to interrupt my class, and you're not supposed to be wearing a camera, so please take the camera off and leave the class!”

Anthony saw no point in explaining himself and left the class. Sophie, in shock, followed Anthony outside to check up on him and make sure he was all right. “Oh Anthony, I don't know how many times I told you to take it off all day…Are you ok?” Anthony was shocked as well. “I don't understand why he got so upset.” Anthony was facing the lecture theater's glass door; it opened and the lecturer stepped out and asked, “Excuse me, are you filming inside the class?” “Professor…” Anthony tried to say he was sorry for the trouble and that he wasn't even recording. “No! Were you filming inside the class?” the lecturer asked again. “I'm sorry if I caused you trouble, professor, the camera is not even on.” The professor, angry at both of them for interrupting his class with such a silly incident, asked them to leave and returned to the lecture theater. Sophie was surprised. “He's a very nice person; I don't understand why he got so upset.” Anthony's shock turned into anger. “I thought this was a public space and I don't think there's any policy that forbids me to record the lecture! Couldn't he at least say it nicely? You get back in, I'll see you after your class, and meanwhile I'll take this darn thing off.” Anthony kissed Sophie goodbye and left for the library without the GoPro on his head.


Wearable computers—digital glasses, watches, headbands, armbands, and other apparel that can lifelog and record visual evidence—tell you where you are on the Earth's surface and how to navigate to your destination, alert you of your physical condition (heart and pulse rate monitors), and even inform you when you are running late to catch a plane, offering rescheduling advice. These devices are windows to others through social networking, bridges to storage centers, and, even on occasion, companions as they listen to your commands and respond like a personal assistant. Google Glass, for instance, is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display that acts on voice commands like “take a picture” and allows for hands-free recording. You can share what you see live with your social network, and it provides directions right in front of your eyes. Glass even syncs your deadlines with speed, distance, and time data critical to forthcoming appointments.

The slim-line Narrative Clip is the latest gadget to enter the wearable space.

But Google is not alone. Microsoft was in the business of lifelogging more than a decade ago with its SenseCam device, which has now been replaced by the Autographer. Initially developed to help those suffering with dementia as a memory aid, the Autographer takes a 5-mp picture about 2,000 times a day and can be replayed in fast-forward mode in about 5 min. It is jam-packed with sensors that provide a context for the photo including an accelerometer, light sensor, magnetometer, infrared motion detector, and thermometer as well as a GPS chipset. The slim-line Narrative Clip is the latest gadget to enter the wearable space. Far less obtrusive than Glass or Autographer, it can be pinned onto your shirt, takes a snapshot every 30 s, and is so lightweight that you quickly forget you are even wearing it.

These devices make computers part of the human interface. But what are the implications of inviting all this technology onto the body? We seem to be producing innovations at an ever-increasing rate and expect adoption to match that cycle of change. But while humans have limitations, technologies do not. We can keep developing at an incredible speed, but there are many questions about trust, privacy, security, and the effects on psychological well-being that, if left unaddressed, could have major risks and often negative societal effects. The most invasive feature of all of these wearables, however, is the image sensor that can take pictures in an outward-looking fashion.

The claim is often made that we are under surveillance by CCTV even within leisure centers and change rooms. But having a Glass device, Autographer, or Narrative Clip recording while you are in a private space, like a “public” washroom, provides all sorts of nightmare scenarios. The camera is looking outward, not at you. Those who believe that they will remember to turn off the camera, will not be tempted to keep the camera “rolling,” or will “delete” the data gathered at a later date are only kidding themselves. We can hardly delete our e-mail records, let alone the thousands of pictures or images we take each day. The recording of sensitive data might also increase criminality rather than reduce it. The power to exclude, delete, or misrepresent an event is with the wearer and not the passive passerby. There is an asymmetry here that cannot be rectified unless the passive participant becomes an active wearer themselves. And this is not only unfeasible, but we would argue undesirable. At what point do we say enough is enough?

We are challenging fundamental human rights through the thoughtless adoption of new technologies that are enslaving us to a paradigm of instantaneous reality-TV-style living. We are seduced into providing ever more of our personal selves without any concerns for the protection of our personal data. Who owns the data emanating from these devices if the information is stored somewhere other than the device itself? Does that mean I lose my capacity to own my own set of histories relating to my physiological characteristics as they are sold on to third-party suppliers? Who will return my sense of self after I have given it away to someone else? We need to face up to these real and proportional matters because they not only have lawful implications but implications for our humanity.

IEEE Keywords: Wearable computing, Market research, Product design, Product development, Consumer behavior,Supply and demand, Digital computers, Google, Marketing and sales


[1] M. Lindgren and H. Bandhold, Scenario Planning: The Link Between Future and Strategy. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, p. 22. 

[2] S. Inayatullah, “Humanity 3000: A comparative analysis of methodological approaches to forecasting the long-term,” Foresight, vol. 14, no. 5, pp. 401–417, 2012. 

[3] M. Godet, “The art of scenarios and strategic planning,” Technol. Forecast. Social Change, vol. 65, no. 1, pp. 3–22, 2000. 

[4] L. Perusco and K. Michael, “Control, trust, privacy, and security: Evaluating location-based services,” IEEE Technol. Soc. Mag., vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 4–16, 2007. 

[5] K. Michael and M. G. Michael. (2013). No limits to watching. Commun. ACM. [Online]. 56(11), 26–28. Available: magazines/2013/11/169022-no-limits-to-watching/abstract 

[6] Y. Gokyer, K. Michael, and A. Preston. Katina Michael discusses pervasive video recording in the accompaniment to “No Limits to Watching” on ACM’s vimeo channel. [Online]. Available: http://vimeo. com/77810226 

[7] K. Michael. (2013). Social implications of wearable computing and augmediated reality in every day life. In Proc. IEEE Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS13), Toronto,

INSPEC: wearable computers, helmet mounted displays, innovation management, wearable computer, digital wearability scenarios, experimental technologies, market leaders, state-based regulations, innovation design practices, radical production, Google Glass product, optical head-mounted display unit

Citation:  Deniz Gokye, Katina Michael, Digital Wearability Scenarios: Trialability on the run, IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine, Year: 2015, Volume: 4, Issue: 2, pp. 82-91, DOI: 10.1109/MCE.2015.2393005 

Location-Based Services for Emergency Management: A Multi-stakeholder Perspective



This paper investigates the deployment of location-based services for nationwide emergency management by focusing on the perspectives of two stakeholders, government and end-users, in the cellular mobile phone value chain. The data collected for the study came from a single in-depth interview and open comments in a preliminary end-user survey. The themes presented have been categorised using a qualitative analysis. The findings indicate that although governments and end-users believe that location-based services have the potential to aid people in emergencies, there are several major disagreements over the proposed deployment. This paper is an attempt to help determine the underlying motivations and impediments that would influence the decisions of both stakeholders and also towards providing a better understanding of the anticipated role of each party in such a deployment.

SECTION I. Introduction

Location-based services (LBS) are a set of applications and technologies that take into account the geographic position of a given cellular mobile device and provide the device user with value added information based on the derived location data [1]. The conventional use of LBS in emergencies is to find the almost pinpoint geographical location of a cellular handset after a distress phone call or a short message service (SMS). The services have been recently exploited, to some extent, in several countries to complement the existing traditional emergency channels (e.g. sirens, radio, television, landline telephones, and internet) as a means to communicate and disseminate time-critical safety information to all active cellular handsets about unfolding events, even post the aftermath, if the handsets are in the vicinity of a pre-defined threat zone(s) [2]. LBS applications have shown the potential to be a valuable addition in emergency management (EM), particularly, when they are utilised under an all-hazards approach by the interested government agencies.

This paper investigates the perspectives of two pivotal stakeholders in the LBS value chain, namely the prospective user and the government, about the use of the services for the purposes of EM and public warning. The investigation is expected to provide an understanding about the perceived benefits, impediments and concerns of utilising the services into relatively new contexts, and also to shed some light on the expected role of both key players in any feasible future solution. Accordingly, this paper is among the first to examine the potential dynamics between LBS stakeholders, specifically, in the realm of emergencies.

SECTION II. Methodology

This research was conducted using two methods of data collection. The first method was to use a traditional paper survey. Six hundred surveys were randomly distributed by hand to mailboxes in the city of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia, in November, 2008. Although, this traditional approach is costly, time-consuming and demands a lot of physical effort, it was favoured as it is more resilient to social desirability effects [3] where respondents may reply in a way they think it is more socially appropriate [4]. Beside a basic introduction of location-based services and emergency management, the survey provided the participants with four vignettes; each depicting a hypothetical scenario about the possible uses of LBS applications for managing potential hazardous situations. The scenarios cover specific related topics to emergencies such as an impending natural event, a situation where a person is particularly in need of help, and a national security issue. Two of the vignettes were designed to present location-based services in a favourable light, and the other two vignettes were designed to draw out the potential pitfalls. Through the use of vignettes, participants were encouraged to project their true perceptions about LBS while, at the same time, involved with creating a meaning related to the potential use of the services in extreme events. This was highly important to establish among participants before starting to obtain informed responses from them, especially, when the utilisation of location-based services in the realm of emergency management is still in its nascent stages worldwide.

The survey which predominantly yielded quantitative results also included one open-ended question in order to solicit written responses from the participants. Despite the fact that only 14 respondents wrote hand-written comments, it should be noted that the primary goal of the open-ended question technique was to understand the solution as perceived by the respondents and not to aggregate their responses for any quantitative representation. Therefore, the number of written responses was sufficient to fulfil the requirements of the content analysis.

The second method was to use a semi-structural interview. The interview was conducted with an official from a leading government emergency services department in Australia. The interview was conducted in November, 2008. The main objectives of performing the interview were to:

  • Explore the government's perspective regarding the various LBS technologies being considered for emergency management.
  • Define the potential role of the government in any nationwide feasible LBS-dependent solution.
  • Gain an understanding of the potential impediments, if any, to the government's decision for adopting location-based services solutions.
  • Investigate the government's understanding and position on matters pertaining to information control and privacy concerns, in relation to nationwide deployments of location-based services in emergency management.

The initial focus was to get an understanding of the similarities and differences in opinions, attitudes and sentiments of individual survey participants. Once that was done, a constructed list of extracted unique keywords was generated and then used to combine the points of view thematically. The same list was also used in the discovery of comparable themes within the interview data. This helped to ensure that the discovered themes from both methods are grounded in specific contexts related to the research being conducted [5].

The themes are presented in two sections by stakeholder type: i) the prospective user, and ii) the government. A discussion is then made based on a cross-theme analysis of the two stakeholders.

SECTION III. The Prospective User

The individuals' willingness to accept LBS technologies and applications could, essentially, determine the likelihood for success in the introduction of LBS solutions for emergency management. This research discerned the need to directly elicit peoples' opinions about the consequences of such an introduction in order to have a preliminary understanding and feel for the concerns and issues prospective users might have before the actual deployment of emergency management solutions using location-based services. The following extracted themes have been categorised based on a qualitative analysis of respondents open comments.

A. The role of the government as perceived by the prospective user

The government is perceived to have a multidisciplinary role that includes provisioning, funding, maintaining, and regulating services related to civil society. Technologies like location-based services have the potential to serve the public, and their adoption and development should be highly advocated among strategic decision-making circles. With respect to LBS offerings, strict legislation should also be introduced by the government to explicitly define the legal liability, for example, in the case of a service failure, or information disclosure accidentally or deliberately.

B. Privacy concerns

In the context of LBS, privacy in the government context mainly relates to the personal locational information of individual citizens and the degree of control in which a government can exercise over that information. Such information is regarded highly sensitive, so much so, that when collected over a period of time inferences about a person could be generally made [6]. Accordingly, privacy concerns may originate when individuals become uncomfortable with the collection of their location information, the idea of its perennial availability to other parties, or the belief that they have incomplete control over that collection.

The traditional commercial uses of LBS have long raised concerns about the privacy of the users' location information [7]. The same issues arise within the context of emergencies. Survey respondents expressed genuine concerns about the possibility of being tracked constantly even during an emergency. This specific note is quite interesting to mention as it raises again the argument of whether or not individuals are willing to relinquish their privacy for the sake of continuous safety and personal security [8]. Another concern expressed was that location information could be used for other purposes besides a given emergency context. Such unauthorised secondary use of the collected information has been discerned in the literature as one of the main privacy concerns that also include excessive location data collection, errors in storage and improper access of the collected data [9]. The last concern conveyed by respondents was that information could be gradually spread or shared with third parties, who are not pertinent to the government's emergency organisations, without explicit consent from the LBS user.

C. The Price of the Services

Some respondents perceived the price of location-based services to be expensive, especially in the context of emergency management. One respondent was adamant that they would not be willing to pay in exchange for using location-based services in an emergency, believing it was a public right. This may suggest that the usage context may have little to do with impacting an individual's decision to use location-based services. Nonetheless, a more rational explanation is that respondents may have a lack of awareness and appreciation of the associated benefits.

In general, the comments suggested that the fees should be borne by the government through the allocation of taxes gathered from the working population, to cover the costs of providing and maintaining vital civic services.

D. Assurance of control mechanisims

One emphasis in the respondents' comments was the need to assure the prospective user's control over who would collect the information, how the location information would be collected, who would have access to that information, where the information would be stored and for how long, and what information would be kept after the occurrence of an emergency incident. For example, it is envisaged that such data would be extremely vital in coronial inquests post natural or human-made disasters. In the state of New South Wales, in Australia, for instance, coroners are exempt from privacy laws and can legitimately gain access to medical records, financial transaction data and even telecommunications records. As a result, a need to create safeguards to protect users' right to control their personal location information was profound among respondents.

Zweig and Webster [10] argued that individuals would accept a new technology, if they perceived to have more control over their personal information. Therefore, an important issue concerns the potential use of location-based services in emergencies, is how the users perceive the most dependable safeguard that is capable of protecting their location information, thus alleviating any concerns they might have to begin with.

Xu and Teo [11] have defined several control mechanisms in order to alleviate similar concerns. One mechanism is the technology self-based assurance of control, which refers to the ability of the LBS user to exercise a direct control over his/her location information via the technical features of the LBS device. For example, a user can determine when to opt-in or to opt-out from a service or can define the preferred accuracy level to which the solution provider is able to track his/her handset. This has been expressed in one of the respondent's suggestions of having some technical features in the handheld device itself in order to be able to “switch on/switch off” the location-based service anytime.

Another assurance of control is a mechanism that is institution-based via legislation. In this case, relevant government laws and regulations exist within the legal system to ensure the proper access and use of the personal locational information [11]. Forces in power (i.e. in this context, government agencies tasked with emergency response) could exercise proxy control over the location information on behalf of the user in the case of an emergency. However, the control should be safeguarded by the assurance that unauthorised behaviours will be deterred through the legal system in use. One respondent actually advocated the idea of introducing explicit relevant legislation, before presenting the services to the public, as it would provide powerful and foolproof safeguards for protecting users' control over their private information.

E. The usefulness of the services

The frequency of emergencies and natural and human-made disasters, and the highly unanticipated nature of such extreme events present opportunities for initiatives based on LBS solutions as a promising and a valuable addition to the existing utilised approaches for managing all identifiable hazards and their possible aftermaths. However, for any initiative proposed usefulness is a principle reference point for judging its suitability to people. If people do not perceive any usefulness behind LBS for emergencies, then it is most likely that they would not consider the use of the services. The comments from the respondents overwhelmingly perceived LBS to be highly useful in emergency situations. One suggestion is that the technology should be utilised for emergency purposes only as their usefulness in such situations far outweigh any privacy concerns they might raise. However, most of the respondents perceived a potential for LBS to be utilised as an important medium to assist communities in emergencies beside their obvious practical possibilities for commercial application as well.

SECTION IV. The Government

Former worldwide experiences have clearly revealed the indispensable role of the government in emergencies since only governments usually have the capabilities to fund and control the financial, human and technical resources needed to managing such situations. As a result, it could be argued that the realisation of a consistent LBS solution for emergency management would be highly conditional upon perceiving the government as the main stakeholder and as a proponent of the services. The following extracted themes represent a “framework of meanings” elicited from the interviewee. The interviewee is an official from a leading emergency services government department in Australia.

A. The role of the prospective user as perceived by the government

Being the focus of the LBS solution, an expected role of the prospective citizen user will not only to be as a mere recipient of the warning message sent by the government but also as the initial point of safety information to others as well. The recipients would have the responsibility to act and convey the warning message to the people who are effectively within their care at the time of the event (e.g. the elderly, the children, the disabled, and the sick). Another example could be a manager of a shopping centre where there is a potential for a large gathering of people in one place, and that place of interest is within the defined emergency area.

B. Where does LBS fit among the existing emergency management solutions?

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has defined two types of location-based emergency service applications [12]. The first is initiated by the individual in the form of a distress mobile phone call or SMS. In these cases, the telecommunications carriers are obliged to provide information regarding the location of the originated call or message within accuracies between 50 to 150 metres. This service is known as wireless E911 in the United States and E112 in the European Union. The second type of LBS applications are initiated by the solution provider in which alerts, notifications, or early public warnings are disseminated (pushed) to all active handsets, which are within a predefined threat area(s) at the time of the unfolding event.

From a governmental perspective, both approaches (i.e. the emergency phone call/SMS and the LBS warning system) are only two ends of the same spectrum. As a result, LBS solutions for public warning are perceived as an additional extension of the existing emergency and warning systems. Accordingly, the same organisations and agencies handling the conventional inbound emergency phone calls should be assigned the responsibility of handling the LBS emergency public warning system.

C. The perceived benefits of LBS for EM

Location-based services have the potential to act as the primary source of safety information. They can also be utilised to point people in the direction of other safety information channels. The messages delivered through the LBS solution could be the initial warning the public receive if they are within the area that is likely to be affected at that time. Once the message is received, people could then turn into other forms of media, such as television or the radio, for more information.

Through providing people with early safety information, the LBS solution may have the potential to save lives by allowing the individuals to make more informed decisions; thus putting them into a safer position. It should be noted here however that even with such powerful applications, it is government policy during emergencies such as bushfires that still override the capabilities of the new technologies. A technology may be fully functional however, the stance taken by government on what to communicate during a disaster may not be effective or even plausible.

Despite the possibilities, the fact that the cellular handsets are the most prevalent among individuals makes the LBS solutions highly valuable in emergencies. Moreover, contrary to other forms of media, LBS do not require the individual to be anchored to a device in order to receive the information. A warning message could reach all the active handsets within the threat zone, allowing people to understand that something is unfolding around them.

D. The cost of the LBS solution

As every individual has the right to be advised by the government in the case of an unsafe situation, the funding of any possible LBS solution would basically lie on the shoulders of federal and state governments. Due to the specific nature of the solution, it could not be financed through any kind of advertising or sponsoring. The cost will, essentially, depend on the final form of the solution. However, a possible impediment for the government's decision to adopt LBS for emergencies could be the cost-per-message delivered. As every message being delivered theoretically represents a commensurate revenue expectation for telecommunications carriers, long-term partnership arrangement and agreements between carriers and the government, early involvement of the carriers as a major stakeholder could partially answer the cost burden of the solution. Nevertheless, the solution will primarily rely on the practices of the telecommunications carriers and their willingness to extensively share their resources in emergencies with the government. The buy-in of carriers, especially incumbents cannot be overstated, although traditionally carriers have complied with government mandates that have been concerned with the greater good of society.

E. Privacy concerns

Due to the fact that any achievable location-based emergency warning system is meant to be only used for public safety, the privacy associated with it should not be a major issue. LBS public warning solutions are perceived as one end of a spectrum that includes the traditional emergency response services number on the other end. The same organisations will be handling the information from both systems. The sole purpose will be to identify the handset number within the emergency area at the time of the event. The number is perhaps the only mechanism by which a notification could reach the handset if the user is in an imminently dangerous situation.

Any proposed solution could neither be an opt-in nor an opt-out system. If individuals opt-out and did not receive the warning message, and then the unfortunate event occurred where they lost their lives, it would not be well received by the public. The message is provided as a means of maintaining the safety of all individuals that are within the likely affected area. Accordingly, prior consent from the prospective user will not be a prerequisite for initiating the service directly to him/her.

SECTION V. Discussion

An examination of the themes presented reveals an agreement between both stakeholders on the potential benefits of location-based services for emergency management. There is also a consensus that the solution should be funded by the government and regulated, operated and maintained by related government emergency organisations. However, a comparative analysis of the extracted themes shows several disagreements between the two stakeholder types. For example, although there was recognition of the indispensable expected role of the private sector, the prospective users expressed concerns that the telecommunications carriers may view the utilisation of the services in the domain of emergencies as a chance to raise revenue rather than being for the public interest, resulting in unsolicited commercial-based services. Other differences such as the need to address the privacy concerns and some of the design features of the recommended system have also appeared. The analysis is presented in Table 1.


Technologies such as LBS have the potential to serve the public. Therefore, the adoption and the development of such technologies should be highly advocated in the higher decision-making political circles. Initiatives to involve the private sector early in the proposition of location-based services in emergency situations need to be instituted. For example, consider the Warning, Alerts, and Response Network (WARN) Act in the United States, which encourages telecommunications carriers to participate in government warning systems used to target a broad variety of media including cellular mobile phones. The act, specifically, obligates the carriers who do not wish to participate to clearly indicate it to their potential users at the point of sale [13]. In addition, strict legislation should also be put in place to explicitly define the legal liability, for example, in the case of a service failure, or information disclosure accidentally or deliberately.

As the deployment of the proposed solution could be hindered by the misconceptions people might have about the misuse of the technologies, some of the earlier differences could be partially solved by underpinning the possible deployment with a substantial educational campaign about location-based services, their limitations and their potential benefits.

SECTION VI. Conclusion

The paper investigated the perspectives of two pivotal stakeholders in the cellular mobile phone location-based services, namely the government and the prospective user, concerning emergency management solutions. The findings indicate that despite the general agreement of the massive potential of location-based solutions in emergency management, both key players have differed considerably on some of the issues raised such as the design of system and the need to address privacy concerns. A general consensus among the stakeholders is that location-based services is an important tool for disseminating relevant customised warning and safety information to people during and after emergency crises. Utilising LBS technologies could have the potential to allow people to make more informed decisions, leading them potentially into a position of safety, which will ultimately create a more resilient society towards the onslaught of extreme and unexpected events.


1. A. Küpper, "Location-based Services: Fundamentals and Operation", John Wiley & Sons Ltd: Chichester, West Sussex, 2005.

2. A. Aloudat, K. Michael, and Y. Jun, "Location-Based Services in Emergency Management- from Government to Citizens: Global Case Studies", in Recent Advances in Security Technology, P. Mendis, J. Lai, E. Dawson, and H. Abbass (Eds), Australian Homeland Security Research Centre: Melbourne. p. 190-201, 2007.

3. W.G. Zikmund and B.J. Babin, "Business research methods". 9th ed, Thomson/South-Western: Mason, Ohio, 2007.

4. T.D. Cook and D.T. Campbell, "Quasi-experimentation : design & analysis issues for field settings", Rand McNally College Pub. Co.: Chicago, 1979.

5. M.Q. Patton, "Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods". 3 ed, Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, California, 2002.

6. R. Clarke and M. Wigan, "You are where you have been", in Australia and the New Technologies: Evidence Based Policy in Public Administration, K. Michael and M.G. Michael (Eds), University of Wollongong: Canberra. p. 100-114, 2008.

7. M. Gadzheva, "Privacy concerns pertaining to location-based services". Int. J. Intercultural Information Management, 2007. 1(1): p. 49-57.

8. L. Perusco and K. Michael 2007, "Control, trust, privacy, and security: evaluating location-based services", Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE, pp. 4-16.

9. H.J. Smith, S.J. Milberg, and S.J. Burke, "Information Privacy: Measuring Individuals' Concerns About Organizational Practices". MIS Quarterly, 1996. 20(2): p. 167-196.

10. D. Zweig and J. Webster, "Where is the line between benign and invasive? An examination of psychological barriers to the acceptance of awareness monitoring systems". Journal of Organizational Behavior, 2002. 23(5): p. 605-633.

11. H. Xu and H.-H. Teo. "Alleviating Consumer's Privacy Concerns in Location-Based Services: A Psychological Control Perspective". in the Twenty-Fifth Annual International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS). Washington, D. C. 2004.

12. European Telecommunications Standards Institute. "Analysis of the short message service and cell broadcast service for emergency messaging applications". 2006; Available from: id=jhPgAkxRGQ2455A550@55.

13. S. Mollman. "Cell broadcasts could help avert catastrophe". 2009; Available from: index.html?iref=intlOnlyonCNN.


This research was supported under Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects funding scheme (project DP0881191). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Australian Research Council.


Disaster management, Government, Telephone sets, Conference management, Technology management, Australia, Mobile handsets, Impedance, Management information systems, Privacy, radio direction-finding, cellular radio, emergency services, qualitative analysis, location-based services, emergency management, multistakeholder perspective, cellular mobile phone value chain, cellular mobile phone, location-based services, emergency management, public warning, all-hazards approach

Citation: Anas Aloudat, Katina Michael, Roba Abbas, 2009, "Location-Based Services for Emergency Management: A Multi-stakeholder Perspective", Eighth International Conference on Mobile Business, ICMB 2009, 27-28 June 2009, Dalian, China, 10.1109/ICMB.2009.32

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