Snapchat's New Spectacles Turn a Blind Eye to Crime


The company formerly known as Snapchat released its smart eyewear product, Spectacles, on Thursday. The gadget is designed to quickly capture video and share it to Snap’s ephemeral messaging service. But what happens if someone witnesses a crime — or commits one — while they’re wearing a camera? Thanks to Snap’s law enforcement guidelines and the flighty nature of it’s content, probably not a lot — and here’s why.

Spectacles, like the Google Glass product it so closely imitates, doesn’t continuously record video. Its wearers must press a button to start a ten-second recording; once they do, a blinking light informs everyone around that they might end up on camera.

This means anyone who records a crime via Spectacles is either doing so on purpose or shouldn’t be trusted to wear a camera at all times. But just in case someone does happen to capture illegal acts — intentionally or otherwise — Snap’s law enforcement policies mean it’s unlikely that police will be able to use the video to assist with any investigations.

The company explains that it only holds metadata about Snaps — who sent or received them, when they were shared, etc. — for 31 days. This leaves police about a month to view those records, and even if they do see them, none of the Snap’s contents are exposed.

“Chat content will be available only if the sender or recipient chooses to save the Chat, or if the Chat is unopened,” Snap explained. “Even when a Chat remains unopened, it will be deleted 30 days after it was sent.” The rules vary for Stories, which are saved for 24 hours, but the principle of not sharing the contents of Spectacles or Snapchat data still applies.

So don’t worry too much about someone using Spectacles to snitch. The product was made to avoid constant surveillance, and even if someone does choose to record a bunch of ten-second videos, chances are good that law enforcement will never be able to see what they contain. The gadget isn’t much more invasive than a camera on a phone or tablet.

That’s good news for many people, because Spectacles are a hit even though their reach is currently limited to Venice Beach and we don’t know where they’ll debut in the near future.

Related Tags