Not a fan of Google Glass’s ability to turn ordinary humans into invisibly recording surveillance cyborgs? Now you can create your own “glasshole-free zone.”
Berlin artist Julian Oliver has written a simple program called Glasshole.sh that detects any Glass device attempting to connect to a Wi-Fi network based on a unique character string that he says he’s found in the MAC addresses of Google’s augmented reality headsets. Install Oliver’s program on a Raspberry Pi or Beaglebone mini-computer and plug it into a USB network antenna, and the gadget becomes a Google Glass detector, sniffing the local network for signs of Glass users. When it detects Glass, it uses the program Aircrack-NG to impersonate the network and send a “deauthorization” command, cutting the headset’s Wi-Fi connection. It can also emit a beep to signal the Glass-wearer’s presence to anyone nearby.
“To say ‘I don’t want to be filmed’ at a restaurant, at a party, or playing with your kids is perfectly OK. But how do you do that when you don’t even know if a device is recording?” Oliver tells WIRED. “This steps up the game. It’s taking a jammer-like approach.”
Oliver came up with the program after hearing that a fellow artist friend was disturbed by guests who showed up to his art exhibit wearing Glass. The device, after all, offered no way for the artist to know if the Glass-wearing visitors were photographing, recording, or even live-streaming his work.
Oliver’s program is still a mostly-unproven demonstration, though the 40-year-old New Zealand native has successfully tested it by booting Glass off his own studio’s network. More importantly, it shows how the uneasiness with Glass’ social implications could play out as the device hits the mainstream. Bars in San Francisco and Seattle have already banned Glass-wearers. In January, a Glass-headed movie-goer was suspected of piracy and questioned by Homeland Security agents after wearing the device in a theater. And the inventor of a Glass-like augmented reality setup claimed to have been violently thrown out of a Paris McDonald’s in 2012 based on the restaurant’s no-recording policy.
A program like Glasshole.sh could make those sorts of no-Glass policies more technically enforceable, though it may have to be adapted as Glass MAC addresses shift in future versions. And Oliver argues that a Glass-booting device is legal so long as the Glasshole.sh user is the owner of the network. He sees it as no different from cell phone jammers, which have been adopted in many schools, libraries, and government buildings.
Oliver warns, though, that the same Glass-ejecting technique could be used more aggressively: He plans to create another version of Glasshole.sh in the near future that’s designed to be a kind of roving Glass-disconnector, capable of knocking Glass off any network or even severing its link to the user’s phone. “That moves it from a territorial statement to ‘you can all go to hell.’ It’s a very different position, politically,” he says. For that version, Oliver says he plans to warn users that the program may be more legally ill-advised, and is only to be used “in extreme circumstances.”
As a long-time Berlin resident, Oliver says he sees Glass as a replay of the events surrounding Google Streetview in Germany, where private citizens protested Google’s uninvited photography of their homes and places of work. He sees Glass as another case of Google violating privacy norms and asking questions later.
“These are cameras, highly surreptitious in nature, with network backup function and no external indication of recording,” says Oliver. “To focus on the device is to dance past a heritage of heartfelt protest against the unconsented video documentation of our public places and spaces.”
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