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Google Glass Sparks Federal Investigation at Movie Theater


Technophobia hits a fever pitch when a theatergoer wearing Google Glass triggers an hour-long interrogation by Homeland Security.

While the movie on screen may have been Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the situation called for something more along the lines of Philip K. Dick-meets-Franz Kafka.

In a dazzling symphony of technophobia, intimidation, and false accusations, a man wearing Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Glass while sitting in a movie theater triggered a federal investigation by the MPAA and Homeland Security.

According to an anonymous account of the incident posted to The Gadgeteer, the situation began about an hour into the Tom Clancy-inspired thriller at an AMC Theater (NYSE:AMC) in Columbus, Ohio. Sitting beside his wife, the "Glass Explorer" had the gadget attached to his prescription lenses but with the device turned off. He notes it had been roughly the third time he's worn the Glass-lens combo to the theater and has discussed the product to employees before. However, this particular time, the discussion wasn't so warm and friendly.

"About an hour into the movie ... a guy comes near my seat, shoves a badge that had some sort of a shield on it, yanks the Google Glass off my face and says, 'Follow me outside immediately.'" He was escorted outside where there were "five to 10 cops and mall cops" waiting for him. Upon asking to see the officer's badge again and inquiring what the charges were, he was told, "You see all these cops. You know we are legit. We are with the 'federal service' and you have been caught illegally taping the movie."

Aside from the few local authorities, that "federal service" was later confirmed to be the Department of Homeland Security.

Bear in mind, given battery limitations, a Google Glass with a full charge will record roughly 48 minutes before dying. So unless movie pirates notoriously love to leave audiences hanging on the last half of a film, the first-generation Google Glass isn't your best bet to stick it to the MPAA.

Nevertheless, the accused party was questioned outside and searched. His personal phone, his work phone, and his wallet were taken from him. He and his wife were then led back into the building where they were interrogated in separate rooms in the "management" office.

The officers allegedly explained that the accused AMC customer wasn't under arrest but, unsurprisingly, implied that if he didn't comply with their line of questioning, "bad things would happen to [him]." For over an hour, the Google Glass owner tried to explain how easy it would be to verify that he never recorded a single frame of the movie.

"I kept telling them that Glass has a USB port and not only did I allow them, I actually insisted they connect to it and see that there was nothing but personal photos with my wife and my dog on it," he writes. "I also insisted they look at my phone too and clear things out, but they wanted to talk first. They wanted to know who I am, where I live, where I work, how much I'm making, how many computers I have at home, why am I recording the movie, who am I going to give the recording to, why don't I just give up the guy up the chain, 'cause they are not interested in me. Over and over and over again."

Finally, after over an hour of questioning, in a testament to the efficiency of a government agency, a laptop and USB cable were brought into the room where agents were able to view the contents of the Google Glass. The agents "downloaded all [his] personal photos and started going through them one by one."

It took five minutes for them to realize that the "perpetrator" had done nothing wrong.

As for the identity of the head officer leading the investigation, the Google Glass owner writes, "The officer asking the questions identified himself as 'Bob Hope' of the 'movie association.'" And for his trouble of being detained and falsely accused of a crime, the suspect was given four free passes to another movie at AMC.

"I would have been fine with 'I'm sorry this happened, please accept our apologies.' Four free passes just infuriated me," the wrongly accused man said in his post.

Google Glass has already been the target of a traffic violation, and banned from various locales, such as restaurants and strip clubs. Although the traffic ticket was dismissed in court, Google's head-mounted gadget has still garnered its share of scrutiny from officials wary of the privacies and securities it could possibly infringe upon. But this incident marks the first time, to the public's knowledge, that the device sparked a federal investigation over something so trivial and easily explained.

If it's able to build unmanned drones, maybe it's time the government brushed up on the basic functionality of consumer electronics.

See also:

Google Is Out-Innovating Apple, Says Steve Jobs' Biographer

Intel: The PC Is Back, So Now What?
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