Snapchat Spectacles and the Privacy Spectacle

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Snapchat Spectacles and the Privacy Spectacle

You are being watched. Not by the security camera on the ceiling. Not even by the webcam on your laptop (though you should probably cover that). In fact, it is the preppy teenager wearing the oversized sunglasses who is recording you. This begs the question, how much does privacy cost to you? For the teenager, it cost just over a hundred dollars to buy Snapchat’s latest invention, Spectacles. As users grow up surrounded by accessible, wearable technology, the debate of privacy shifts out your hands into theirs.

With the latest release of Snapchat’s Spectacle, sunglasses comprised of an integrated video camera, users can instantly share moments as they come. With the addition of Spectacles, customers no longer have to use their phone to take pictures. Juan Buis, a Digital Culture Reporter at The Next Web, claims that with this new accessory, “there’s no friction anymore to share every part of your life with your friends.” Buis is alluding to a future where one is able to combine one’s private life and social life into a cohesive experience through the developing digital world. By changing the way that millennials interact with their environment and themselves, products like Spectacle may very well be leading this trend.

Leslie Shade and Tamara Shepard conducted a study that revealed the sentiments of millennials and mobile privacy. Youth respondents answered that their ambivalence towards privacy stemmed from three major categories: Apathy, Obscurity, and Implied Consent. Specifically, the study showed that the youth are generally indifferent towards where their data is and tend to view it as a contractual part of using web services.

Raised on social media and online platforms, the youth have developed an exchange mentality: they will gladly give their personal information in return for a service or good. In fact, 25 percent of millennials would be willing to exchange personal data for targeted ads. Elaine B. Coleman, managing director of media and emerging technologies for Bovitz, explains: “It’s not that they don’t care about it—rather they perceive social media as an exchange or an economy of ideas, where sharing involves participating in smart ways.” Additionally, they have adopted the crowd mentality and agree that there are too many other people whose data is out there for it to matter. Overall, millennials are aware of how available their data is but they don’t view it as a major threat. This general attitude may soon change how the rest of society views privacy through unregulated usage of wearable technology such as Spectacle.

While it’s true that younger people do not view sharing data as a major threat, this is only because they are smarter and more tech savvy when it comes to their online presence. A recent poll by Forbes explains that a larger percentage of younger millennials utilized privacy settings and other personal means of protection at a higher frequency than their older counterparts. This then limited their number of reported security problems. To adapt, older generations need to learn privacy as new layers of social media begin to be integrated into society. Despite the lack of concern among millennials, privacy is beginning to change ownership from the individual to society level. As a result, individuals will need to take responsibility of their actions in order to respect the privacy of others. The shift in this privacy paradigm may have severe implications.

In the past, privacy was personal. A simple lock and key would do the trick. As we moved into the age of the Internet, individuals were still able to control their level of separation from society, with anti-virus software and general awareness. Now, as we move into a world dominated by wearable technologies, privacy is taking on a whole new meaning. However oxymoronic it may sound, privacy will move to a public stage. As we progress, individuals may need to learn not only to take ownership for their own privacy, but also acquire responsibility for the privacies of those around them.

Snapchat began the privacy transformation by encouraging users to use their phones to share their memories and surroundings with others. Consensual or not, people in the crowd around you become a part of your story and message that day. But through the millennial awkwardly angling their phone to capture the world around them, the public is aware of being recorded. This friction allows individuals to have control of their privacy. However, with the proliferation of devices such as Spectacle, that friction is gone. Your privacy is now in the hands of a teenager who you’ve never met sending pictures to people you’ve never talked to.

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