Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed the smart glasses' launch during the company's second-quarter earnings call on July 28. "Looking ahead here, the next produce release will be the launch of our first smart glasses from Ray-Ban in partnership with EssilorLuxottica. The glasses have their iconic form factor, and they let you do some pretty neat things. So I'm excited to get those into people's hands and to continue to make progress on the journey toward full [AR] glasses in the future," he said.
Former Facebook Vice President of Reality Labs Partnerships Hugo Barra tweeted back in 2020: "Our first smart glasses will launch next year, and that's just the beginning." His hints suggested that the glasses will be more similar to Snap Spectacles than Google Glass: The former had a camera for recording video clips. Barra's tweet also said that "the future will be a classic and it's coming in 2021," alluding to the design of the Ray-Ban wayfarer eyeglass frame.
Despite the promising description, the social media giant clarified that the new smart glasses did not have any AR capability. Barra's successor Andrew Bosworth told CNET: "These aren't [AR] glasses. However, they do a lot of concepts we think will eventually be critical for [AR] glasses." He continued that the smart glasses will "help people stay connected to each other, and never feel like they're out of touch with somebody else."
Bosworth cited parents trying to record memories with their young children as one common situation where the smart glasses came in handy. He said that most parents would have missed the important moment by the time they get their phones. "If you don't miss it, you're probably watching the real event – but through your phone. If you have the right technology, it can get out of the way," Bosworth said.
However, the new smart glasses appeared to be the latest in the Big Tech company's efforts to conduct Orwellian surveillance on its users. Critics previously slammed the social media platform for invading its users' privacy. (Related: Facebook confirmed to be a massive spy machine that records your conversations and violates your privacy.)
Facebook admitted back in August 2019 that it hired human contractors to listen to Facebook Messenger recordings without their knowledge. According to the Guardian, the company obtained audio from users who had opted in to the Messenger app's voice chat transcription tool. Afterward, the contractors re-transcribed the conversations in order to gauge the tool's accuracy.
The social media platform later said that it had "paused" the practice. A Facebook spokesperson told the Guardian that time: "Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio."
Later, USA TODAY technology columnist Jefferson Graham wrote about other strategies Facebook uses to track people in a March 2020 piece. He mentioned the social network's use of location services as one example. Facebook claimed that turning on location services helps "provide more relevant and personalized experiences." However, it also allowed Facebook to identify users and the products they buy.
Electronic Frontier Foundation Associate Research Director Gennie Gebhart elaborated on how Facebook's location services feature works. "Maybe you're in an airport, lingering in front of an ad. [That] signals to an advertiser that you might be interested in the product. Or you're in a bar, watching a TV show – and you get an ad for the TV show. Location services knows you're in a bar where that show might be popular."
Gebhart ultimately told Graham: "For Facebook to use voice detection, find keywords and then map them onto ad preferences, that's Stone Age targeted advertising technology. There's much more nefarious, evasive and invisible methods available to them." (Related: Total sellout of privacy for profit: Facebook betrays its users by selling their information to the highest bidder.)
PrivacyWatch.news has more about Facebook's attempts to spy on people in different ways.