A Columbus, OH movie goer wearing his prescription Google Glass was pulled out of the theater and detained and interrogated by Homeland Security officers and theater staff this weekend. He recounted the experience with The Gadgeteer this weekend in a private Google Hangout. The experience sounds a bit harrowing:
I went to AMC (Easton Mall, Columbus, OH) to watch a movie with my wife (non- Google Glass user). It is the theater we go to every week, so it has probably been the third time I’ve been there wearing Google Glass, and the AMC employees (guy tearing tickets at the entrance, girl at the concession stand) have asked me about Glass in the past and I have told them how awesome Glass is with every occasion.
Because I don’t want Glass to distract me during the movie, I turn them off (but since my prescription lenses are on the frame, I still wear them). About an hour into the movie (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), a guy comes near my seat, shoves a badge that had some sort of a shield on it, yanks the Google Glass off my face and says “follow me outside immediately”. It was quite embarrassing and outside of the theater there were about 5-10 cops and mall cops.
When he asked what was going on, the man simply replied : “you see all these cops you know we are legit, we are with the ‘federal service’ and you have been caught illegally taping the movie”. After trying to no avail to explain it was all a misunderstanding and explain, things heated up:
I tried to explain that he’s holding rather expensive hardware that costed me $1500 for Google Glass and over $600 for the prescription glasses. The response was that I was searched and more stuff was taken away from me (specifically my personal phone, my work phone – both of which were turned off, and my wallet). After an embarrassing 20-30 minutes outside the movie theater, me and my wife were conducted into two separate rooms in the “management” office of Easton Mall, where the guy with the badge introduced himself again and showed me a different ID. His partner introduced herself too and showed me a similar looking badge. I was by that time, too flustered to remember their names (as a matter of fact, now, over 30 hours later I am still shaking when recounting the facts).
What followed was over an hour of the “feds” telling me I am not under arrest, and that this is a “voluntary interview”, but if I choose not to cooperate bad things may happen to me (is it legal for authorities to threaten people like that?). They wanted to know who I am, where I live, where I work, how much I’m making, how many computers I have at home, why am I recording the movie, who am I going to give the recording to, why don’t I just give up the guy up the chain, ’cause they are not interested in me. Over and over and over again. Then they wanted to know what does Google ask of me in exchange for Glass, how much is Google paying me, who is my boss and why am I recording the movie. Eventually, after a long time somebody came with a laptop and an USB cable at which point he told me it was my last chance to come clean. I repeated for the hundredth time there is nothing to come clean about and this is a big misunderstanding so the FBI guy finally connected my Glass to the computer, downloaded all my personal photos and started going though them one by one (although they are dated and it was obvious there was nothing on my Glass that was from the time period they accused me of recording). Then they went through my phone, and 5 minutes later they concluded I had done nothing wrong."
After publicly embarrasing him by dragging the man out of the theater, interrogating him and for over an hour, accusing him of several federal offenses and holding his wife in a room the entire time without EVER TELLING HER WHY, the AMC representative offered 2 free passes to come back and see the movie, and when he asked why they didn't simply check out his Glass in the first place to save all the time, they just offered 2 more passes. No apology.
The man summed up his feelings about the situation:
I asked if they thought my Google Glass was such a big piracy machine, why didn’t they ask me not to wear them in the theater? I would have probably sat five or six rows closer to the screen (as I didn’t have any other pair of prescription glasses with me) and none of this would have happened. All he said was AMC called him, and he called the FBI and “here are two more passes for my troubles”. I would have been fine with “I’m sorry this happened, please accept our apologies”. Four free passes just infuriated me.
Considering it was 11:27pm when this happened, and the movie started at 7.45, I guess 3 and a half hours of my time and the scare my wife went through (who didn’t know what was going on as nobody bothered to tell her) is worth about 30 bucks in the eyes of the Movie Association and the federal militia (sorry, I cannot think of other derogatory words). I think I should sue them for this, but I don’t have the time or the energy to deal with “who is my boss – they don’t want me, they want the big guy” again, so I just spilled the beans on this forum, for other to learn from my experience.