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Snap Spectacles: Smile – Because You May
Indeed Be On Camera

Snapchat, a company made famous through their private and ephemeral platform for content, may have just come full privacy circle with their creation of Snap Spectacles.

Snap Inc., the new brand name which matches the company’s venture into hardware, sells the distinctive-looking glasses through their website:  The sunglasses retail for $129, and are scheduled to ship in two to four weeks complete with a charging case and a cable.  The hip spectacles come in black, coral and teal.

The spectacles have a camcorder on the upper right corner with an ultra-wide view and a light that indicates when they are recording.  To record, the user must tap the frames once to begin the 10-second clip.  A user may tap up to three times for a thirty-second clip.  The video may then be stored in the camera, or moved to the Snapchat app in a smartphone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth where it may be edited and posted at a later time.

Privacy Concerns of Snap Spectacles

Snap Inc. CEO, Evan Spiegel, describes the product as a toy, but adds that the spectacles advantage over the smartphone camera is that it removes “a wall” that’s otherwise in front of the smartphone snapper’s face.

Although marketed as a toy, some worry that the Snap Spectacles could be used for more sinister and illegal reasons.  By removing the “wall” in front of the snapper’s face, a user may be able to take a video of a person in a situation where they would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a dressing room or a restroom.

Protections from intrusions by private individuals are found in privacy law.   Arizona recognizes four common-law invasions of privacy claims, including: intrusion upon solitude or seclusion, public disclosure of private facts, false light privacy and appropriation of one’s name or likeness.  However, the most common invasion of privacy claims against a Snap Spectacle user may be intrusion upon a person’s solitude or seclusion and public disclosure of private facts.

In Arizona, in order to prove intrusion upon solitude or seclusion, a plaintiff must establish four elements:

  1. That the defendant, without authorization, must have intentionally invaded the private affairs of the plaintiff. This generally requires physical trespass, which includes electronic or optical intrusion.
  2. That the invasion was offensive to a reasonable person. This requires more than mere discomfort.  For example, opening a stall door while a person is using the restroom would be offensive to a reasonable person while taking a picture of someone while they eat their dinner at a public restaurant would not be considered offensive.
  1. The matter in which the defendant was intruded upon must be a private matter. This would include intruding into someone’s seclusion at a place they expect privacy (restroom) or while they were engaged in an activity were they would expect privacy (intimate contact with another person).
  1. The intrusion must have caused mental anguish or suffering. The suffering may come from anger from being disturbed, fright or surprise. Restatement (Second) of Torts – Intrusion Upon Seclusion.

Additionally, a Snap Spectacle user may use the glasses to disclose private facts about an individual, including: a person’s sexual orientation, medical information or financial information.

In Arizona, in order to prove public disclosure of private facts, a plaintiff must prove:

  1. The disclosure of facts was communicated to the public at large.
  2. The facts disclosed were private and not generally known.
  3. Publication of the private facts must be offensive to a reasonable person. The court explains that this must be more than a casual observation of a person’s comings and goings.  Examples include publishing a photograph or a woman nursing a child or displaying a movie of a woman’s cesarean operation.
  4. The facts disclosed must not be newsworthy or a matter of public concern. Examples of matters of public concern include nearly all events and private lives of prominent figures such as movie stars, politicians, and professional athletes. Restatement (Second) of Torts – Public Disclosure of Private Facts.

Users may also be charged criminally if they violate Arizona Revised Statute § 13-3019, which states:

“A. It is unlawful for any person to knowingly photograph, videotape, film, digitally record or by any other means secretly view, with or without a device, another person without that person’s consent under either of the following circumstances:

  1. In a restroom, bathroom, locker room, bedroom or other location where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and the person is urinating, defecating, dressing, undressing, nude or involved in sexual intercourse or sexual contact.
  2. In a manner that directly or indirectly captures or allows the viewing of the person’s genitalia, buttock or female breast, whether clothed or unclothed, that is not otherwise visible to the public.
  3. It is unlawful to disclose, display, distribute or publish a photograph, videotape, film or digital recording made in violation of subsection A of this section without the consent or knowledge of the person depicted.”

So far, Spiegel has declined to comment on privacy concerns surrounding the spectacles and has directed users to its Snap Inc. community guidelines privacy page.  The privacy page states, “Our Community Guidelines have always said to be thoughtful and respect people’s privacy, and these ideals apply equally when you’re using Spectacles. Please be respectful and considerate of others.”

Benefits of Snap Spectacles

Although there are multiple privacy concerns, there are also benefits to Snap Inc.’s new and exciting technology.

The technology gives the user a new and diverse point of view while filming, as the user may seamlessly record while going about their daily lives. Imagine being able to press a button and record yourself playing with your children, giving a speech at a wedding, zip lining, windsurfing, skateboarding and all the while, not having to hold your smartphone.

Spiegel describes being blown away by the experience of seeing footage he shot on vacation.  “We were walking through the woods, stepping over logs, looking up at the beautiful trees. And when I got the footage back and watched it, I could see my own memory, through my own eyes,” Spiegel said. “It’s one thing to see images of an experience you had…. It was the closest I’d ever come to feeling like I was there again.”

Not only does this technology have interesting applications in everyday life, it also has exciting applications in the legal world.

Personal injury firms would have the ability to give people injured in accidents the Snap Spectacles and accident victims would be able to show how their injuries have changed their daily lives with just the click of button.

Additionally, opposing counsel would be able to witness, through video, a unique perspective of how the victim has been affected by the accident.  Seeing evidence of how a person’s daily life has been dramatically changed because of an accident would hopefully assist the victim in getting the compensation that they truly deserve.

Ultimately, the spectacles have the potential for positive and negative advancements; however, in each situation it will literally depend on the eye of the beholder.