Queer Your Tech With Fun: Or Not, Since Google Glass Banned Porn

Now let me clarify before I even start. I’m actually not taking a position either way on this, which I understand is weird because I usually come down on the side of freedom to porn. I’m simply going to tell you what happened, and then point out some of my thoughts, and then ask you to point out some things that you think because I don’t have a definitive opinion on this.

via CNN

via CNN

This week, adult company MiKandi developed a porn app for Google Glass (entitled “Tits and Glass”) that would allow the experience of first person point of view pictures and video of a pornographic nature. Users can also browse through the content and vote on their favorites in a way similar to liking something on Facebook. The app was already functional and just about to launch when Google quietly changed their Glassware (software for Glass) policy – no nudity, graphic sex acts or sexually explicit material, something that hadn’t been in their policy when MiKandi first began developing the app. CNN reports:

“Our policies make it clear that Glass does not allow Glassware content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material. Any Glassware that violates this policy will be blocked from appearing on Glass,” a Google spokesperson said. The same section promises harsh penalties for any app featuring child pornography. Google also bans gratuitous violence, hate speech and gambling on Glass.

MiKandi says (somewhat inexplicably, I have no idea how they will do this) they will change their app so that it complies with the new Glassware policies. More than 10,000 people have visited the landing page for the app, and at least a dozen Glass owners have signed up for the app, proving that there are at least some out there who would like to interact with porn using Google Glass. MiKandi also runs an app store for Android devices – an app store completely for porn and porn apps.

To be clear: MiKandi isn’t exactly a progressive, feminist space nor do they really promote porn that I would watch on account of that. I choose my porn based on my politics. Even in its promotional material, MiKandi uses derogatory language with no apparent understanding of institutional power dynamics behind that language. It’s not as if a queer feminist porn empire got their porn app slammed by Google, though to be honest, they’d almost definitely receive the same treatment – their porn would still be against the new policy.

Google’s decision isn’t without precedent. Apple has basically done this on their mobile devices. Apple does not allow porn in their app store or iTunes store. Coupled with Flash not being enabled on all mobile devices, it’s relatively difficult to get porn onto an iPhone or an iPad. So the question: is Google abandoning their open platform approach and becoming a “walled garden” like Apple? Actually, probably not, at least not with the Android phones – one could root an Android phone (that is, get access to the guts of the thing and bypass much of the Google regulation). Google has stated that it will go after people who root Glass, whereas Android phones are still kinda fair game for the rooting. Conversely, Apple takes a clear stance against their equivalent action, “jailbreaking,” and one can be refused service if one has jailbroken an phone.

But Glass also has a different functionality than tablets or mobile phones based on its design. Google’s motto is “don’t be evil,” and it would feel pretty evil to me if someone was watching me in public while also watching porn. I think what we have there is a consent issue. It would be very easy to take your porn into a sphere populated by other humans who did not (or, in the case of minors, cannot) consent to the watcher’s actions. Weird. Kinda glad no one can do it right now. I love porn, but only when I’m knowingly and enthusiastically participating in the experience.

BUT! On the other hand. We hold people responsible to not go out and whack off on a subway train, porn or no porn. Some people still do it, and that’s wrong because it interferes with everyone around that person. But still, there are laws in place and it’s up to people to follow them or suffer the consequences. Everyone here is an adult. Do we really need corporations attempting to force their own code when people should just use the equipment they have responsibly? Shouldn’t we just be saying to the Glass owners, “Don’t watch porn in public because that’s a bit of a dick move and also not quite so legal?”

Finally, Google is a private company. Even though I suspect their reasoning for banning porn in Glassware has to do with public image and not any real ethical or consent discourse, they don’t actually have to give a reason. What they say goes because Glass is their product. Period. Full stop.

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Freelance writer and fiction author, Geekery Editor for Autostraddle.com and Fiction Editor for qu.ee/r Magazine. Keep up with her at her website.

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17 Comments

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      Well, I guess they did change it so that there’s no official “app” that can be used as a community gathering point for something like creepshots, but they didn’t put any limitations on what people can privately do. (Right? I want to make sure I’m reading this correctly.)

      So someone could still take a picture with Glass and then upload it somewhere else.

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        I guess the issue is that it sounded like something of a community for creepshots. Yeah, there are pervs everywhere and this kind of thing happens all the time, but for one of the early apps to heavily imply that as part of the intended use? There’s something uncomfortable about the weighty feeling that anyone communicating with your while using Glass could be taking advantage of you. Traditionally, a perv has to have a cell phone or camera out to get sketch shots but now they could be looking right at you like nothing’s happening.

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          Yeah but when you are out in public, an extremely large percentage of the people around you are holding up phones, and any one of them could easily take pictures of you without you knowing. Even if you are personally interacting with someone, at various points it is perfectly normal or at least not unusual for them to take their phone out and hold it with the camera facing you, and you have no way of knowing if they are taking a picture of you while they do it.

          I think to freak out about the surveillance potential of Google Glass requires ignoring the world we already live in. I don’t really ever want anyone taking a picture of me, but that ship sailed a long time ago. And I wouldn’t advocate suppressing technological progress in order to avoid it. Hell I remember seeing sunglasses with a hidden camera behind one of the lenses 10 years ago, and I’m sure that wasn’t a new invention at the time. And now cameras are significantly smaller, significantly cheaper, and significantly higher quality. It wouldn’t be hard for anyone to build a device like that now. Or build one into a normal looking hat or other piece of clothing which would be less conspicuous, especially now that everyone is focused on glasses.

  1. Thumb up 3

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    I’m not sure I necessarily know enough about how porn would function on the Glass to comment. Which specifically relates to how I think about this part –

    “But Glass also has a different functionality than tablets or mobile phones based on its design. Google’s motto is “don’t be evil,” and it would feel pretty evil to me if someone was watching me in public while also watching porn. I think what we have there is a consent issue. ”

    Websites like Youporn or Pornhub function on mobile devices through the browser, so it is possible right now to browse porn in public spaces with people most likely none-the-wiser. That being said, maybe there’s something less creepy about someone staring at a screen they’re holding than them being able to look up and look around at other people while simultaneously watching? This is where my ignorance of the way that Glass works kicks in. I guess I don’t know how the experience of watching porn on it would even function? A small heads up display in the top right hand corner of your vision?

    Either way, it does concern me slightly that they’re putting a “no nudity on the Glassware” policy in. Or no porn in general. I tend to fall on the side of believing that most people are adult enough to engage with their technology respectfully and responsibly, and that it’s a bad thing to limit the freedom of everyone based around the fear that a small few would abuse it.

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    “Google has stated that it will go after people who root Glass, whereas Android phones are still kinda fair game for the rooting.”

    When has google said that they intend to prevent people from rooting Glass? I haven’t been paying that much attention to Glass, but right now I searched for information about this and all I found were references to Glass sort of already being rooted and Glass devs responding “it doesn’t count as rooting because we wanted you to do it in the first place.” In fact when I searched duckduckgo for “does google allow rooting glass” this article was the 4th result.

    “it would feel pretty evil to me if someone was watching me in public while also watching porn. I think what we have there is a consent issue.”

    I don’t really see how this is different from watching porn on a phone or tablet or whatever, which people are already doing in public? And that doesn’t bother me. I mean personally I find the things that someone in my vicinity could do with their imagination way creepier than them secretly watching porn in my vicinity, and I wouldn’t suggest trying to legislate peoples thoughts.

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    I don’t know a lot about Glass but from the looks of it someone can’t just walk up to a Glass user and see what their doing right? If someone was watching porn in public on a tablet it would be fairly easy to see the screen.

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    Hmm, I was really ready to be opposed to Google’s decision as typically pointless erotophobia, but you make a good point about consent and public space. It’s bad enough when you know somebody is ogling you, but it’s worse to know that they are incorporating you into their porn-watching habits.

    But actually I think I’m still pretty solidly against Google’s decision. I’m not sure that the issue has anything to do with consent. (Creepshots are another issue, but as Qwin pointed out that’s not unique to google glass). I’m not sure that there’s any point in trying to police who someone is having sexual thoughts about and where they are having them, even when those thoughts are objectifying or about minors or whatever. Being in a public space means a possibility of someone fantasizing about you, and that fantasizing might include watching porn, whether in the moment or later.

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    I tend to agree with eggks. Someone could already be watching porn in public on a phone or tablet, or reading erotica or smutty fanfiction on an e-reader. You can’t control whether or not they incorporate you into their fantasies or not. As long as they don’t engage in any lewd conduct, you can’t police people’s thoughts. Creepshots is a different issue, and as others said already happen using phones or tablets. Google Glass might offer slightly more discreet photo-taking (I’m not sure, I don’t know much about how Glass works) but the problem already exists and isn’t exclusive to Glass.

    Google’s after-the-fact ban on porn for Glass obviously has more to do with the image they want for their product (which is their perogative) than concern for public safety.

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    I’m of the mentality of “porn in private”, and something about watching porn while wearing glasses and observing other people seems to cross the line. At least on a tablet or phone, the user is distracted/not engaging with the public. I guess just the direction of eye contact is unsettling.

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