Google Glass has raised privacy concerns in many countries. It now appears that it is being monitored as a potential aid to copyright infringement.
A man who wore Google Glass to a movie theater in Ohio was detained and interrogated by officials of the Department of Homeland Security, highlighting concerns that the device may be used by people to illegally record movies at a theater.
A spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America, which works closely with theaters all over the U.S. to curb camcording and "theater-originated piracy," said Tuesday that no such activity was discovered in the particular case.
The DHS' Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed that agents of its Homeland Security Investigations interviewed the man, but did not take action after it was found that the recording device, suspected of being used to record a film at the theater, was also a pair of prescription eye glasses in which the recording function had been inactive.
In an account to the Gadgeteer, the unnamed person said he went to AMC theater in Easton Mall in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday to watch a movie with his wife. "Because I don't want Glass to distract me during the movie, I turn them off (but since my prescription lenses are on the frame, I still wear them)," he told the gadget review website.
DHS officials questioned the person and let him go after they determined he was not using the device to record the film, a source close to the situation said.
AMC Theatres confirmed in a message on Twitter that "it is true that a guest with a potential recording device inside the auditorium was questioned at our AMC Easton 30." The theater had contacted MPAA investigators and later referred the issue to the DHS, according to the source.
Google was not immediately available for comment.
"Google Glass is an incredible innovation in the mobile sphere, and we have seen no proof that it is currently a significant threat that could result in content theft," the MPAA spokesman said via email.
Users of Google Glass have had brushes with the law on other occasions. A court in Southern California dismissed earlier this month a traffic citation issued for wearing Google Glass while driving. The driver was stopped and issued a ticket for speeding. She got the second ticket after the California Highway Patrol officer noticed that she was wearing Google Glass.
The court commissioner dismissed the charge, saying he found no evidence that the device was in operation at the time, according to reports. The woman, Cecilia Abadie, had been cited for breaking a California state law that bars motorists from having video screens for entertainment or business applications in their line of sight while driving.
The Canadian privacy commissioner and other data protection authorities, including those in Australia, New Zealand and Israel, raised privacy concerns in June about Google's Glass in a joint letter to the company's CEO Larry Page. The authorities asked, among other questions, what were the privacy safeguards Google and application developers are putting in place, and how the device complies with data protection laws.