Toops Scoops: Google Glasses Raise Risky Issues

This week's news feeds were looking like some steampunk dream of the future come true. I'm not even going to get into the flying car discussion -- with its auto, homeowners and third-party liability concerns, it's a bigger issue for another time -- but when the news broke about the testing of Google's augmented reality glasses, I felt compelled to comment.

I'm all for better living through technology, but just consider for a moment the liability exposures when you combine someone wearing Google goggles and driving the flying car -- while cruising for chicks with the Girls Around Me app. Oh, that's right -- he won't need something as archaic as a "mobile application" when he has GPS embedded in his Ray-Bans -- or, soon enough, directly into his brain.

For years, legislators, law enforcement and the risk management industry has been worried about the combination of mobile technology and driving. First it was simply using cell phones while driving; then came texting and driving. Now we'll be grappling with the reality of driving while visually augmented (DWVA?).

Take a quick, nonaugmented (for now) look at this video about Google Glass, which provides an idea of how it will work. The glasses incorporate smartphone, camera and microphone which, as the callow youth in the video informs us, saves us the trouble of having to remove a smart phone from our pockets, unlocking it and turning it on to take a picture. (Whew -- I'm breaking a sweat just thinking about it.)

Of course, the video shows us Google Glass's practical applications, such as getting GPS directions, IMs from friends or information about street closures. The reality, and you know it as well as I do, is that the user's vision will be cluttered and bombarded with pop-up ads.

Talk about distracted driving.

And don't kid yourself: People will be wearing these things behind the wheel.

What all of this really seems to be leading up to is the ultimate in social networking: a process where we can simply be microchipped, like the family dog, so advertisers and everybody else who wants to keep tabs on us are constantly aware of where we are, what we're doing and who we're doing it to or with. And why not? It will save us the inconvenience of having to make all those Facebook updates.

If you think I'm exaggerating, read about the iBrain, a headband device that "can collect data in real time in a person’s own bed, or when they’re watching TV, or doing just about anything,” according to Philip Low, the neuroscientist who is currently involved in experiments using Stephen Hawking as his product tester.

And yes, helping Hawking to communicate in real time is wonderful stuff. But that phrase about "collecting data in real time" sounds like the stuff you'd hear in a marketing seminar with lots of big dollar signs attached to it.

It will definitely be interesting to see how the risk management world will have to evolve and change to address all these new realities.

I won't even get into the implications of privacy. After all, we haven't lost it so much as we've given it away.

(Check out this article on a recent ENISA experiment about whether people would pay extra for more privacy -- which could provide a clue to where we might be headed with all this interconnection.)


About the Author
Laura Mazzuca Toops,

Laura Mazzuca Toops,

Laura Mazzuca Toops, National Underwriter Property & Casualty executive managing editor, is responsible for the Agent & Broker channel for Her more than 20 years of property & casualty insurance experience includes associate editor at Business Insurance, Midwest managing editor with Insurance Journal, and freelance work for insurers, brokers and trade associations. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago. She may be reached at


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