Future Tense

If You Wear Google Glass to the Movies, the FBI Might Come After You

Wearing Glass in a crowded theater isn’t exactly like shouting fire.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A man who went to an AMC theater wearing Google Glass was interrogated by FBI agents for an hour because AMC employees thought that he was illegally recording the movie (his Glass was off). Even if you don’t have a lot of context for FBI interrogations that still sounds like a really scary hour. I mean, this guy was just trying to watch Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit in peace.

The incident, which took place in Columbus, Ohio, was complicated by the fact that the man’s Glass had prescription lenses. Had they been clear, he could have just taken them off to prove that he wasn’t interested in recording, but he needed them to see the movie, and the employees reportedly didn’t believe him.

An AMC spokesperson told Business Insider that the people at the company are “huge fans of technology and innovation,” but that it’s not appropriate to wear a device with recording capabilities in a movie theater. AMC also noted that it eventually contacted Homeland Security because this agency oversees movie theft cases.

It took an hour for “the feds,” as they called themselves, to figure out that they could resolve the issue by checking what was on the man’s Glass. He told the Gadgeteer:

Eventually, after a long time somebody came with a laptop and an USB cable at which point he told me it was my last chance to come clean. I repeated for the hundredth time there is nothing to come clean about and this is a big misunderstanding so the FBI guy finally connected my Glass to the computer, downloaded all my personal photos and started going though them one by one (although they are dated and it was obvious there was nothing on my Glass that was from the time period they accused me of recording). Then they went through my phone, and 5 minutes later they concluded I had done nothing wrong.

This is just a sad situation. Glass is pretty new and it’s reasonable to assume that not everyone has interacted with one of the devices and/or that people don’t really understand how they function. But the intensity of this reaction shows a blind fear of the unknown rather than an appropriate concern about pirating.

Though using Glass in certain situations may be problematic for any number of ethical reasons, the fact that the technology exists (and that similar devices are cropping up) cannot be changed. Unfortunately, it’s not hard to imagine a frustrating situation like this escalating to violence out of plain old uncertainty. Whether you love or hate Glass, no one wants Explorers getting into these situations unless they actually do something wrong. If you have prescription Glass, maybe carry backup glasses for now.

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.