Seattle bar that banned Google Glasses has its own surveillance cams

5 Point Cafe.

An otherwise quiet Sunday morning outside Seattle’s 5 Point Cafe, unlikely epicenter of a debate over high-tech privacy.

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.

5Point7

A surveillance camera at 5 Point Cafe.

“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.

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Google’s augmented reality glasses, which display information to the user, also provide video-recording capabilities.

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:

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=37521058 facebook-37521058

    What a joke… A security camera, but no Google Glasses. Oh people’s false sense of privacy :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/jerrytuninjr Jerry Tunin

      The security cameras don’t get streamed over the internet and posted everywhere.

      • http://www.facebook.com/hturt.seaker Hturt Seaker

        How do you know? Also, what makes you think GGs are constantly streaming? lastly, why are smartphones still allowed? since I can use spycam to record everything while pretending that I read something.

    • Adam

      It’s like the security cameras in miami, only false

  • http://twitter.com/M_Khalilian Michael Khalilian

    You can’t compare the two. When you choose to voluntarily go into a business on their property, you can assume that they have security cameras, and that you’ve given up your right to not be filmed by them. That’s not the same as random people filming you that you haven’t even indirectly given permission to.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=37521058 facebook-37521058

      Not true, the minute you step out into a public space you’ve given up your right not to be filmed.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jerrytuninjr Jerry Tunin

        Again, public vs. private. This is in regards to a private establishment. The security cameras don’t get streamed over the internet and posted everywhere.

      • lucascott

        This bar, while it serves the public, is NOT a public place. So Michael’s comment stands. The business, per various laws, posted that there are cameras in use. You have a problem with that, you leave and never come back. But you have no clue if someone is recording you on their Google Glasses, cell phone etc

  • CheckYourHead

    this is a moronic post —> security video & google glasses = apples & oranges. #DUH

    • margaretbartley

      There is no difference to the people the owner was concerned about, who didn’t want their picture taken. The main difference is that the police and owner control the security camera, and they don’t control an unknown number of google glasses. With google glasses, as with cell phone cameras, someone is watching the watcher, and the watchers don’t like it.

  • B_Sack

    Most companies have their own cameras. Businesses wanting to keep security cameras on their esrablishmwnt vs. allowing people to bring in their own are two different things.

  • Steve Banks

    I’ve been there plenty, taking iphone pictures of the food, the place and lots with people. Everybody’s taking their own private pictures in there. There’s like 225 pictures on Yelp of the place, the food and customers. The wait staff thinks nothing of it. The owner is just a jerk trying to get publicity. He’s always been a jerk. He’s definitely no thought leader.

    • lucascott

      taking a photo of your food is hardly the same as taking a picture of a person

      • Steve Banks

        Actually there are people in lots of the photos. I can tell the difference between a hamburger and a human. Check out the Yelp page which illustrates it nicely.