Google’s Glass Brick: Permissionless Innovation Begins at Home….NOT!

It’s really important that we protect the rights of really good looking people in this society,”

Attorney Andrew Bridges of Fenwick & West (frequently representing Google) quoted at Beautiful Person Derek Khanna’s SXSW Panel


In a strange twist of fate, we were recently regaled last year with the sudden ascent of an unknown Hill staffer from obscurity in the “50 Most Beautiful People” lifestyle pages of The Hill to a fellowship at Yale’s outpost of Googlers.  Why?  Because some memo he wrote somehow found its way into a blog that had a remarkably high degree of penetration in the radical tech press (a feat worthy of Michael Geist’s own blogging).  But mostly because of the latest solution in search of a problem–unlocking cell phones.

Yes, the survival of Free Culture turns on whether one is for or against unlocking all cell phones (regardless of whether the user got the phone at a price that was subsidized by a phone company in the first place).

And thus a first year law student suddenly found a new biography: According to CNN’s uncritical biography:

Editor’s note: Derek Khanna is a Yale Law Fellow with the Information Society Project, a columnist and policy expert [link to Khanna’s own site telling us what an expert he is]. As a staff member for the House Republican Study Committee, he authored the report “Three Myths About Copyright Law.” [Clearly a gloss on the facts intended to make the reader think that he wrote the memo for RSC, a allegation that is most definitely in dispute]

So this cell phone unlocking curiously found its way into the White House petitions (which allows all Citizens of the World to sign, not just U.S. voters or even residents), and…lo and behold, the petition gathered over 100,000 unverified “signatures”.  The White House let it be known that it would support this solution and like clockwork, legislation was introduced the next day that would give some in Congress an excuse to open the nasty DMCA notice and shakedowns…sorry, that would allow the Congress to protect consumers from subsidized cell phones.

After all this storm and fury from the beautiful people, one would think that it would not be too much to expect some consistency in the desire for permissionless innovation that we have heard so much about, including from one Vint Cerf, the Google lobbyist:

The Internet is threatened by governments that want to control content and use of the network. All of us have gotten accustomed to freedom of expression and freedom of access to content on the net, but we have also gotten accustomed to something called permissionless innovation, which is a phrase I use to explain why it’s so important to keep the network relatively open and freely accessible. It’s so that anyone who wants to try a new application out can just do so.

I’m sure Mr. Khanna remembers Mr. Cerf–Mr. Khanna has mentioned Mr. Cerf in Khanna’s Linkedin resume and then there’s this:


Given this history, one has a certain expectation that the permissionless innovation crowd will be up in arms over Google’s announcement that it will “brick” Google Glass if anyone tries to sell or even lend–you know, share–their pair with someone else.  According to PC World:

If you’re hoping to sell your $1,500 Google Glasses, think again. The search giant will brick your fancy specs if you put them on eBay or otherwise try to make a profit.  [One might ask, “How would they know?” but this is Google after all, and we may prefer fitful sleep to knowing the answer to that question.]

According to the Google Glass terms of service, buyers “may not resell, loan, transfer, or give your Device to any other person.”

If you do that without permission, “Google reserves the right to deactivate the Device, and neither you nor the unauthorized person using the Device will be entitled to any refund, product support, or product warranty.”

Why might that be?  You don’t suppose it has anything to do with the fact that if you buy Google Glass, you will be telling Google who you are.  As in your name.  And since Google will know who you are, when they use Google Glass to see where you are, what you see and what you say, they will know more about you than the FBI.  N, o more guesswork.

And if you were to do something as uncool as “share” your device with a “friend” or resell your device–you know, kind of like reselling a digital copy of a music or movie file–then Google would no longer know whose data they were scraping.  Which would make it much less valuable to them, so apparently they would not be willing to subsidize the price of a pair of Glass.

Kind of like a phone company might do with a subsidized cell phone.

So why haven’t we heard from Mr. Khanna about this latest affront to Free Culture?  It’s not like he doesn’t know anyone at Google.

khanna patry2

One thought on “Google’s Glass Brick: Permissionless Innovation Begins at Home….NOT!

Comments are closed.