Two tech giants have filed patents to make your eyes their own.
Sony and Google have both delivered plans for cameras that you would wear on (or in) your eyes, and while the primary purpose of the devices is your own recording, the implication of a “connected” camera recording what you see means that others would have access to your vision.
Sony filed a patent for a contact lens camera that beat out similar patents from Samsung and Google. The awarded patent describes a lens that fits over your own, and is controlled by deliberate combinations of blinks that tell the camera when to record and capture.
If that sounds like something you’ve already seen, it’s because several science fiction films, including the most recent “Mission: Impossible,” made use of the same then-fictional technology as a way to secretly capture documents and scenes.
It might seem scary that this technology is in the works and (likely) just a few years from being on the market. But if a contact lens camera makes you wince, then what Google dreamed up will make you cover your eyes in fear.
That’s because Google skipped the whole “wearable” concept for an eye camera, opting instead for an optical implant.
That’s right: the patent application (which The Verge says was filed in 2014 but publicized last week) shows a camera being mounted inside the eye, likely using a medical procedure that you can easily preview in any number of horror movies.
Google, similarly, mentioned LTE, GPS, NFC and other signals it wants its camera implant to be able to broadcast.
What could possibly go wrong?
And sure, maybe eye cameras are great for some situations. For instance, if you’re streaming your view of a protest, a speech, a concert; if you’re documenting something happening in real time and you need your hands free (or just don’t want to be the person holding a phone in the air) then yes, there are applications.
But even in that list, there are a dozen ticketed (read: people pay to see them) events that promoters probably don’t want you to stream, from your eye, for free. So the logical step is having your eyes policed for cameras the same way your bags are checked going into a stadium.
Never mind the litany of hateful stories published two years ago slowly strangling the joy out of the dorks that actually used Google Glass: the mockery would turn to paranoia if eye cameras were ubiquitous. Imagine not being able to see that someone is recording you, because they’re not wearing a terrible, socially ignorant pair of nerd glasses with a light to advertise “don’t make fun of me unless you want it on Youtube.”
But as much as the wearer’s intentions are a concern, they’re not the only ones you’d have to worry about. All of those connection points and signals mean that your lens camera would be capable of broadcasting and recording everything. That information could, conceivably, be used much the same way your browsing data is.
Imagine Google, for instance, knowing what newspaper you read, what medications are in your medicine cabinet. Imagine them seeing the contents of your wallet, bank statement, email inbox, refrigerator, and gym bag.
Imagine Google knowing what trains you take to work, and where, and who you talk to at work, and when you have a fight with your wife.
Imagine a third party hacking your device and getting all that same information—all the analog data that can’t be mined from your web browser suddenly being in someone else’s hands.
But maybe there’s nothing to worry about. After all, there was an episode of “Black Mirror” about this kind of technology, and nothing bad ever happened in that show.