New Facebook sunglasses could be used for secret filming, reviewers say

The glasses have a small warning light by the camera lens

Credit: Facebook

Facebook has come under pressure over its video-recording sunglasses after tests of the eyewear found that people struggled to see a warning light informing them they were being filmed.

The social network has attempted to succeed where both Google and Snapchat have so far failed in convincing people to don the high-tech glasses, which can record clips and take photos.

A collaboration between the social networking giant and Ray-Ban, the device is designed to look as much like a regular pair of sunglasses as possible and has only a small camera lens embedded in the frame.

Early reviewers discovered that a single white light designed to turn on when the glasses are recording 30-second video clips was difficult to detect, with many subjects unaware they were being filmed.

In comparison Snapchat’s rival Spectacles have bright lights dotted around the camera lens, making it more clear that filming is active.

One reviewer who was granted early access to the device at the Wall Street Journal said that she filmed more than 20 people with the glasses but none could detect the light, particularly in daylight. The camera continues to function if a wearer applies tape over the warning light, although Facebook said this would breach its terms of service.

Google Glass, an earlier attempt at high-tech sunglasses from the search engine, flopped after its release in 2014 following widespread privacy concerns.

Facebook’s glasses, known as Ray-Ban Stories, will allow users to listen to music or take phone calls through a Bluetooth connection. They go on sale this week in Ray-Ban shops at a cost of £299.

The device represents a potential step towards augmented reality (AR) glasses, eyewear that projects digital images or information into a user’s field of view which would be able to interact with the physical world.

Facebook is ploughing billions of dollars into the technology, with Mark Zuckerberg betting that it will represent the next wave of computing, although reliable AR glasses are expected to be years away.

While the glasses unveiled on Thursday are relatively low-tech compared to the company’s ambitions, Facebook hopes they will be a step towards both wearers and members of the public becoming comfortable with high-tech headgear.

The company said that surreptitious filming would be difficult since video clips must last for 30 seconds, and wearers must press a button on the glasses’ frame to begin recording. It added that it plans to educate the public on the devices with promotional campaigns and that it has “baked privacy directly into the product design and functionality of the full experience, from the start”.

The company said: “As smart glasses become a part of everyday life, we have a responsibility to help explore the big questions and establish new norms in an open, inclusive way."

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