If there’s one thing to learn from Snapchat’s new camcorder sunglasses it’s that when products and services are designed from the ground up with the consumer in mind, they’ll have the best chance of succeeding. Snapchat’s trendy new Specs are a fantastic example of this because they put the privacy of people on both ends of the lens front and center.

It’s Privacy by Design.

For those who’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few days, Snap Inc. – formerly Snapchat – has announced the imminent release of a pair of sunglasses able to capture 10-second circular video clips with a 115-degree wide view lens. The Spec’s themselves are rather trendy, though only available in limited colors, yet the coolest part of the Specs isn’t what they look like, it’s how they show respect for privacy. The moment you begin recording the world knows about it, via a light mounted in the frame of the specs that lets people know they’re being filmed.

Privacy by Design is an approach to systems engineering which takes privacy into account throughout the whole engineering process. The concept is an example of value sensitive design, whereby product designers take human values into account in a well-defined manner throughout the whole design and product development process. Something Google didn’t do with Glass.

Let’s be honest, there was evident social stigma attached to being seen wearing Google Glass – resulting in the aptly coined term Glasshole – for the types of people who proudly chose to wear the offending $1,500 accessory designed for the dork about town. Snap Inc. have clearly worked hard to overcome the lingering cynicism for face-bound wearable-tech by developing a stylish and safe ‘must-have’ product for the dedicated life-casters out there.


In an era where consumers crave a measure of transparency from the brands they buy into – where transparent is the new black – Snap Inc. have developed a product that serves their own needs (giving people a handy tool to capture more video to share on their platform) whilst showing deep respect for user privacy, as well as the privacy of the person caught on camera.

Google Glass created an environment where people were subjected to the potential for “always on” recording. Living like this, with a constant fear of being caught on camera, alters how people behave. Glass also gave prospective stalkers and creeps in general the ultimate tool for taking invasive photos of women in public without their knowledge. Snap’s Specs have ducked this.

The other privacy issue that Snap Inc. has gotten right from day one is how they treat video footage that’s captured. Video is stored on the device – not automatically sent to the cloud – and can be wirelessly offloaded to a phone over Wifi or Bluetooth. All of the data captured by Glass – photos, videos, audio, location data etc. – is stored on Google’s cloud servers, where Google owns the data and has the ability to analyze it to develop profiles of individuals.

So irrespective of whether you’re a dedicated life-caster already salivating at the prospect of getting your own Specs, or your someone who wouldn’t put them on at any price, what no one can deny is this is the first real-world product spawned from a previously online only brand that has a real chance of changing the game. Time will tell if Specs go the way of Glass. I hope not.