By B.N. Frank
Wireless wearables are notorious for their capability of being privacy invasive (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). The same is true about other wirelessly connected (aka “smart”) appliances and devices including utility “Smart” Meters – electric, gas, and water. Facebook (now Meta) continues to be condemned for collecting user data (often without users’ consent) among other unscrupulous business practices (see 1, 2, 3, 4,. 5, 6). However, that hasn’t stopped the company from creating and marketing sunglasses – that can also overheat – for wearers to take pictures, videos, and audio recordings of unsuspecting people without their knowledge or consent and, of course, share all of it with Facebook.
Facebook’s Ray-Ban Stories Somehow Make Both Ray-Bans and Spying Less Cool
Facebook’s new smart glasses allow you to capture the world around you while simultaneously looking like a creep.
It seems like it would be considerably difficult to tarnish the cool-factor of Ray-Ban—one of the most canonically hip sunglasses brands of all time, best known for its signature Wayfarer frames—but, impressively, Meta (the company formerly known as Facebook) has managed to do it just by association.
After a protracted hype campaign and rounds and rounds of rumors, Meta’s smart glasses, the Ray-Ban Stories, are here. Locked and loaded with built-in cameras and speakers, the spectacles are on par with other spy goggles on the market right now—they bear a particularly uncanny resemblance to Snap’s Spectacles—and come in three distinctive lens shapes: Round, Meteor and the classic Wayfarer.
By now, everybody knows that the Ray-Ban Stories are basically just Meta’s soft launch for some kind of augmented reality wearable, which we’ll undoubtedly be seeing at some point later on down the line. But unlike whatever those things will eventually be, the Stories aren’t AR-capable—they’re kind of a more subtle GoPro.
There are more or less two types of people in this world: Those horrified by the insidiousness potential of commercially available, covert spy glasses made by Facebook to collect video, and those who might be excited about finally having a way to get hands-free recordings of all their daily activities. This second group—the influencer class, if you will—is the one most likely to shell out $299 for the glasses, which allow you to shoot short video clips of up to 30 seconds, snap photos with the dual 5-megapixel camera lenses embedded in the frames, and take calls and play music through tiny speakers, all of which we’ll get into in greater depth below.
Tiny digital privacy-eradicators in the shape of Ray-Ban’s iconic sunglasses
Look exactly like Ray-Bans; good call quality; buttons are discrete and intuitive
Basically a data mining tool for Facebook; in-app editing is rudimentary; could accidentally land you on a watch list.
What If Ray-Bans…but Also a Camera
In its quest to create a line of fun, accessible smart glasses that combine the functionality of earbuds, a phone and a camera with a cool accessory, let’s face it: Meta scored big by netting Ray-Ban. The glasses themselves—which, in addition to being offered in three different shapes can also be customized with different colors and lenses, and can be made prescription—are really good-looking, just like regular Ray-Bans are. I got the Round frames in blue to review, which is the shape that bears a particularly strong resemblance to the Snap Spectacles (with almost the exact same functionality, the two products have more than just aesthetics in common).
Despite being ever so slightly tighter and heavier than your average pair of sunglasses might be, the Stories wear very normally, and a couple of times I caught myself forgetting that things on my face had the capacity to record entirely. The USB-C charging case accompanying the frames is also pretty sleek, and I’ll admit that I was impressed by how snugly the frames nestle in there. The case took about an hour to charge my pair up, which translated to roughly three hours of battery life.
I’ll give it to the Ray-Ban Stories: For a pair of smart glasses that has a few good little tricks up its sleeve, the touch-based controls are all pretty discrete, with nothing weird sticking out anywhere to suggest to the untrained eye that this might be more than an average pair of sunglasses. The dual cameras blend in pretty seamlessly on the front of the frames, making them difficult to spot (more on this later), and a tiny switch on the left arm’s hinge powers the glasses up. Speakers on each arm are situated on the bottom of the frames, sitting just to the front of where your ears wind up when you’re wearing them.
Once the glasses are powered on, a button on top of the right temple gives you the option to tap to snap photos or hold to record up to 30 seconds of video. On the same arm, a swipe bar allows you to slide the volume up or down, and double tapping the same area will let you answer and end phone calls. If you want to ignore a call, tapping and holding the same area will do that—although it seems easy to inadvertently double tap to accidentally answer if you’re not being super diligent.
I’m normally someone who gets really finicky about tiny, delicate controls like these—you can also find some sort of issue with a touch bar, in my opinion—but I have no complaints about the buttons on the Stories. The glasses are well-made: Taking photos gets easier every time, the volume controls work the way they should, and it’s easy to power them on and off—and to tell which mode is which.
The Ease of Hands-Free Recording From Your Face
In terms of the actual media captured by the Stories, the photo and video quality is fine, but it’s nothing to write home about. The 5-megapixel cameras get the job done well enough, but you’ll probably get a more satisfying photo if you make like we did in the olden days and whip out ye olde iPhone (an iPhone 12 or 13 will definitely take higher-quality photos).
Additionally, wireless wearables and other wireless devices emit harmful electromagnetic radiation (aka “Electrosmog”) which can cause symptoms and illness including in animals. In August, a federal court ruled in favor of organizations and petitioners that sued the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for NOT adequately protecting Americans from biologically harmful cell phone and wireless (“Wi-Fi”) exposure.
Hence, while Facebook Ray-Bans’ wearers are spying, they are also frying themselves and likely those close to them and their creepy glasses.
Activist Post reports regularly about unsafe technology. For more information, visit our archives and the following websites:
- Electromagnetic Radiation Safety
- Environmental Health Trust
- Physicians for Safe Technology
- Wireless Information Network
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