OK, so I’m officially jumping on the bandwagon.
“OMG, Google rejected a porn app for Glass!”
Now that I’ve got that out of my system, “Really? Why is this news?”
Background for those of you who might somehow have been unaware of this: Yesterday, 3 June 2013, Google rejected a Google Glass app because it included dirty pictures. The app in question allowed users to take pictures with their Google Glasses and upload them to a website where others (both Glass users and non-Glass users) could view them and rate them. Since the intent was that pictures would include nudity and/or sexual acts, the app fell in violation of the Google Glass Developer Policies. The relevant clause in the policies was added on Saturday, 1 June 2013 – in other words, the app was legitimate when development began, but was not so legitimate by the time it was submitted to Google.
So, a couple of questions:
1) The app makers, MiKandi (link very NSFW) announced their intention to launch the app on 22 May. Did Google change the policies specifically to allow them to reject the app? To me, it seems likely. Allow me to quote the relevant paragraph: “We don’t allow Glassware content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material. Google has a zero-tolerance policy against child pornography. If we become aware of content with child pornography, we will report it to the appropriate authorities and delete the Google Accounts of those involved with the distribution.” The way the paragraph is written feels clumsy compared to the rest of the policy (although I’ll admit that’s a subjective matter), and grouping child pornography with “Sexually Explicit Material” feels like a “we left it out, let’s get it into the policy quickly” reaction, where more thought would have grouped it with “Illegal Activities” or even made it a separate paragraph. Whether I’m right or wrong though, why were these policies not in place sooner? My feeling is that Google was taken a bit by surprise by the vehemence of the backlash against Glass. They probably intended to become more detailed in the policies as they shifted more and more from “developer toy” to “marketable product”, but public reaction is moving faster than they planned, and the perception that they’re “promoting pornography” would ruin their marketing plans. I’ll come back to this point in a moment.
2) Will Google keep porn off of Glass? Of course not. Technically speaking, there’s no way they could possibly keep it off. Even if they wanted to, the nature of the Android ecosystem would prevent it. Even if there is no formal provision for installing non-approved apps, in release versions of the Glass implementation of Android, the functionality is so convenient for developers that it would be politically infeasible for Google to remove it (even if it were technically possible, which I tend to doubt). That means that in all likelihood, the furthest they could go would be to have the functionality there but with the UI to enable it hidden; that in turn means that developers will find a way to enable it, with the result that an ecosystem of alternative Glass app stores will spring up, just as they have for mainstream Android. Even that may be overly complicated. The fact that Glass works in conjunction with apps installed on a phone means that Google-approved (or possibly even Google-supplied) Glass apps can be served porn by less-upstanding apps on the phone.
So why is Google bothering? As I said earlier, Google does not want a public perception that they’re “fostering” or “distributing” pornography. Even a belief that they’re making it possible for people to watch pornography in public would be a public-relations nightmare. Imagine the political speeches and press editorials: “How will our children ever be safe when a Glass-wearing predator can watch pornography while stalking them!” Back in December, Google made the “Safe Search” filters more restrictive to reduce the amount of porn shown in search results – unless the user specifically asks for it by including relevant words in the query. This is a similar move. It allows Google to promote the fact that they’re keeping Glass users safe from the evils of the flesh – unless the user specifically asks for it by installing an app through alternate channels.
My prediction is that by the time Glass is available to the general public, there will be a widely-known, easily-available method to get porn on Glass. Anyone disagree?