Before devouring a tasty plate of scrambled eggs and hashbrowns at Seattle’s 5 Point Cafe Sunday morning, one yellow sign up in the corner of restaurant caught my eye.
“SMILE,” it read. “You’re on camera.”
Sure enough, there was a surveillance camera just adjacent to the placard watching me and the other customers enjoy Sunday brunch.
Why does this matter?
If you haven’t heard yet, 5 Point is one of the first establishments to declare a ban on Google Glasses, to prevent its patrons from being recorded by the high-tech glasses (but also as a bit of a joke, the bar’s owner admits).
Google’s high-tech augmented reality “Project Glass” spectacles are still in development and not available for purchase by the general public. But the bar’s pre-emptive ban, announced on its Facebook page this past week, has been getting national attention, and fueling a debate over privacy.
At the 5 Point this morning, I chatted with a server for a few minutes about this, letting her know I was a GeekWire reporter and that we had written about this issue.
The funny thing was that she didn’t know much about Google Glasses. Although she noticed 5 Point’s Facebook post about the issue, she didn’t know what the glasses could do.
“I’ve had two people call me already today about it,” she said. “I don’t really know too much about it, so I’m sitting on the phone with them confused and thinking, ‘I’ve got coffee to serve!'”
After briefly describing the high-tech spectacles, I pointed up at the surveillance camera in the corner and asked if it was recording. After she said yes, I asked if it was odd that the business monitors their patrons around the clock but is banning a different type of recording device.
What she said made sense: the surveillance cameras come in handy for several reasons. The owners access the feed remotely and use it to relay messages to employees, like “close that door,” for example.
The feed also is important for the police, who sometimes ask to see footage when there have been fights or crime in the area.
I also ran into two other 5 Point employees outside and asked them what they thought.
“It’s brilliant,” one said. “The ban is the best thing for those glasses.”
Why is the 5 Point doing this?
“I’m a thought leader,” joked Dave Meinert, owner of the 5 Point, speaking on the Luke Burbank Show on KIRO-FM last week. “First you have to understand the culture of the 5 Point, which is a sometimes seedy, maybe notorious place. People want to go there and be not known … and definitely don’t want to be secretly filmed or videotaped and immediately put on the Internet.”
He admitted, “Part of this is a joke, to be funny on Facebook, and get reaction. But part of it’s serious, because we don’t let people film other people or take photos unwanted of people in the bar, because it is kind of a private place that people go.”
After enjoying my brunch — food was great, coffee was hot and service was fast — I hung around outside the restaurant to see what customers thought. The response was mixed — some liked how 5 Point was protecting privacy, while others thought the ban was lame. Here are some of the answers: