Why Facebook’s connected glasses are a real privacy problem

Later Snapchat and the shows, Facebook (Meta) also tests the adventure of connected glasses. Released this Thursday April 14 the marketing of Ray-Ban Stories in France. They had been available in some countries in other parts of the world since the end of last year, which had allowed 01net.com try them for the first time.

As the name suggests, they are manufactured and marketed by Ray-Ban, or rather EssilorLuxottica, which owns the brand. Instead of inventing an entirely new design, the partners rely on three iconic models of Ray-Ban eyeglasses and sunglasses. There are many possible combinations depending on the lenses or colors for quite high prices since it starts from 329 euros anyway. I tried the classic dark blue Round version.

Impeccable design and finishes

The integration of technology and finishes are very successful. It was still necessary to incorporate a Bluetooth module, two 5 Mpix cameras, three microphones and speakers in this product! And you can’t see. As a result, the glasses weigh only five grams more than the original version without connection. We can only observe that the branches are thicker, without spoiling its aesthetics.

The branches are quite thick but the frame is still light.

Everything is comfortable and easy to wear. The carrying case is also very well thought out as it allows you to automatically recharge the glasses without thinking about it. Fortunately, because the glasses only have 3-6 hours of battery life. You’ll still have to think about recharging the case at the end of the day.

The case allows to load the glasses.

Ray-Ban Stories allows you to take photos, videos (up to 60 seconds) and listen to music. The voice call feature that is based on the Messenger app is not yet available in French.

You need to link your Ray-Ban Stories to your Facebook account and download the dedicated Facebook View app to pair the product with your smartphone.

The app View Facebook.

There are two ways to interact with the glasses. Touching them first. You need to briefly press the touch pad located on the right arm of the frame to start a video and again to stop it. Long press to take a photo. We make a sweep with the right branch to modify the volume of the audio.

The touch panel at the top of the right temple.

It is also possible to use the newly available voice assistant in French. The glasses call each other with a “Hey Facebook” or any other command that has been previously customized. It all works pretty well, even if we’ve regularly inadvertently turned on the music by removing or replacing the glasses.

Image quality is decent

Photos display 2592 X 1944 pixels and videos 1184 X 1184 pixels. The quality of the images is still quite normal. The result is correct outdoors with good light.

Photo on the street in full sun.

But as soon as we are inside, the image deteriorates.

Self-portrait indoors in good light.

The palette is quite dull with some colors that stand out too much like green. In short, it’s better to use your smartphone for better photos!

The colors are vibrant.

Learn to frame from your eyes

It’s also not easy to frame from your eyes when you have no feedback on what you’re doing. Sometimes we find crooked photos because the frame was not straight on our nose.

Unframed photo.

The worst thing is the hair that hides the lens without us realizing it, drawing lines from top to bottom of the photos, as we can see below.

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It is not possible to zoom and the angle obtained at eye level is not necessarily the most suitable for capturing something on the go. Finally, we do not spontaneously think of standing still and positioning ourselves well in front of the object we want to photograph.

So, of course, the hands-free mode is interesting in certain situations, as is the case with a GoPro-type on-board camera. Capturing moments when you play soccer, ride a bike, run or cook without having to stop to draw on your smartphone is practical and fun. However, although the stability is relatively good, we will notice that the videos move according to the oscillations of the head when we move. Here again, the result is therefore not completely satisfactory.

A LED and lenses are not visible enough

But the most problematic aspect of these Ray-Ban Stories is privacy. Meta has drawn up a code of good conduct in which it recommends its users to respect the decision of people who do not want to be filmed or photographed and not to shoot in private places.

It also put some safeguards in place. It is not possible to make live video with the glasses on social networks, nor upload photos directly from the glasses. Finally, a white LED lights up when taking a photo or video to warn the environment.

The light signal can be masked.

The problem is that this light signal is very small and hardly visible from the outside, especially in direct sunlight. In addition, the photosensors are also extremely discreet. By comparison, the Snapchat Spectacles were much more imposing and relatable.

The glasses allow you to take photos and videos with the touch of a finger.

We launch videos on public transport, in supermarkets, on the street or on the terraces of cafes. Wherever we went, no one seemed to notice that we were filming. If it is impossible to reduce the intensity of the LED, however it is feasible to hide it. There are also sound notifications, but they are meant for the person wearing the glasses and you can only hear them when you are really close.

Therefore, Ray-Ban Stories glasses can be used as an espionage tool by a malicious person. Without going that far, knowing that everyone could potentially photograph and film without being noticed, and keep those images indefinitely, is still very intrusive and scary.

Certainly nowadays, no one expects people wearing glasses to be able to film you. Hence Meta’s desire to carry out communication campaigns to inform about this new type of product and learn how to use it. We doubt that it will be enough.

Almost ten years after the failure of Google Glass, this type of connected glasses continues to face the same obstacle: respect for privacy. In our opinion, the Ray-Ban Stories do not offer sufficient guarantees to protect you.

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