The saga of what has been dubbed the word's first "cybernetic hate crime" continues to unfold. Earlier this week Dr. Steve Mann claimed he was assaulted in a Paris McDonald's because he refused to remove his Eyetap, an augmented reality headset. Yesterday McDonald's denied the alleged assault, and today Mann released new photos he claims are further evidence of the altercation.
Mann's Eyetap is a predecessor to devices like Google's Project Glass. He alleges the McDonald's staff asked him to remove it on the grounds cameras were not allowed inside the restaurant. Mann produced a doctor's note stating that the device could be worn at all times. After he sat down, Mann says staffers approached him tried to rip the Eyetap from his head, an act of violence made more disturbing by the fact that it is permanently attached to Mann's skull and cannot be safely removed without special tools.
We share the concern regarding Dr. Mann’s account of his July 1 visit to a McDonald’s in Paris. McDonald’s France was made aware of Dr. Mann’s complaints on July 16, and immediately launched a thorough investigation. The McDonald’s France team has contacted Dr. Mann and is awaiting further information from him. In addition, several staff members involved have been interviewed individually, and all independently and consistently expressed that their interaction with Dr. Mann was polite and did not involve a physical altercation. Our crew members and restaurant security staff have informed us that they did not damage any of Mr. Mann’s personal possessions. While we continue to learn more about the situation, we are hearing from customers who have questions about what happened. We urge everyone not to speculate or jump to conclusions before all the facts are known. Our goal is to provide a welcoming environment and stellar service to McDonald’s customers around the world.
To counter those claims, Mann added a new photo to his blog (shown above) where a man appears to be grabbing on to his Eyetap. Mann says the default on his device is not to store the images, but that it did collect these images because it was being damaged.
At this point, it's still a case of conflicting claims with no evidence beyond Mann's photographs. But the incident highlights much deeper questions that will surely arise in the coming decade. How will society react to humans with wearable and embedded technology? Are cyborgs, as tech ethics organizations suggest, a separate class of people who need to be protected from hate speech and crimes? And how will existing laws about privacy and surveillance deal with people who are constantly recording everything they see?