Facebook’s new smart glasses arrive in Belgium

Facebook’s new smart glasses arrive in Belgium
The new glasses may feel like something from a spy film but raise pertinent ethical questions. Credit: Belga

In a bid to tap into the trend for wearable tech, Facebook and Ray-Ban have teamed up to create Ray-Ban 'Stories', innocuous-looking sunglasses with remarkable features.

The glasses, which look like a regular pair of Ray-Bans, contain “dual integrated 5MP cameras”, letting people take photos or 30-second videos with the capture button or using hands-free voice commands. The glasses have been hailed as a step towards augmented reality.

In addition, the glasses have speakers on the temples and three microphones. Speaking to Le Soir, Meta (Facebook parent company) product manager Hind Hobeika explained: "These glasses allow you to capture many important moments while continuing to enjoy the moment. And staying in the real world."

What about privacy?

“The obvious threat is that wearers can easily record others without their knowledge,” said Access Now, a digital rights group. They argued that the glasses don’t alert bystanders properly when they are being recorded. However, a white light will appear when recording starts.

“It’s not enough to only consider the needs of people using the product," the privacy campaigners continued. "Companies need to also prioritise the rights of bystanders who could be recorded, surveilled, and stalked by people wearing them."

Yet even Ray-Ban stories wearers would need to link up with the Facebook view app to share content, thereby relinquishing user data to a company that has been embroiled in scandals concerning harvesting personal data without consent.

The sunglasses do contain less intrusive abilities such as loudspeakers that will allow the user to listen to podcasts or make phone calls.

Ray-Ban Stories are available in Belgium from Thursday in the Wayfarer, Round and Meteor models.

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