Should Associations Ban Google Glass in Common Areas?

Written by: on Wednesday, March, 19th, 2014

Just when you were getting used to your iPhones, it is time to get ready for the next wave.  Smart phones may soon be replaced with smart glasses.  Google Glass allows the user to view images called up in the glass through voice activation or by touching the rims of the glasses.  The product has already hit the market with thousands of “explorers.”  Google Glass like most smart phones also allows the user to take and share photographs and video recordings.  However, unlike most smart phones, the user taking the video or photographs will not be obvious.  Instead of pointing and clicking, Google Glass users can take photographs and video surreptiously, James Bond style.  Actually, other companies are in the process of designing “smart contact lenses.”

You may be asking why your association even cares about this new technology.  Google Glass concerns are timely in light of cases across the country where some courts have ruled that taking photos of “private parts” while displayed in public locations (like a subway) is not illegal, because it did not constitute a “secret videotape of someone who was nude or partially nude.”  While the legislatures may address the issues, the Google Glass technology raises privacy and safety concerns in general as it makes it easier for people to surreptitiously video and photograph others.

While Google Glass has not yet been released for public consumption, there are a few thousand “testers” or “explorers” using the product. The web is a buzz with a few fights or confrontations that have broken out in bars and cafes as a result.  In response, some west coast bars and cafes (located mainly in Seattle and California, known as high tech areas) have banned the product.  Some businesses, including law firms are following suit.  Business leaders, including notoriously conservative lawyers and accountants are concerned about having confidential or sensitive documents surreptitiously photographed.  Police, Judges and District Attorneys are concerned for witness intimidation and jury tampering concerns.

This begs the question: should condominiums follow suit and ban Google Glass or smart glasses from common areas?  Do all residents want themselves or their children being secretly photographed or videotaped in the common areas; say, for example the gym or the pool?  Do Board Members or Association Managers want the board meetings secretly taped or photographed? It’s one thing if permission is given or its obvious.  Secret recordings are another matter entirely.

If condominiums want to ban Google Glass or smart glasses from the common areas, condominium boards should be able to do so by enacting a rule.  Such a rule would likely withstand scrutiny as it is done to protect legitimate privacy and safety interests of unit owners.  For more information on such a rule contact one of our attorneys.

Thank you to Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, P.C. for their original article on the issue and my son for being an “explorer.”

Loura K. Sanchez