Google Glass-wearing AMC patron gets interrogated by Homeland Security in Ohio theater

Terrorism. Biological warfare. Large-scale destructive hacking. These are the things Homeland Security stresses as its raison d’etre, but now we’ve got one more task to add to the list: Movie piracy. But only if you’re wearing Google Glass. 

An Ohio AMC patron found himself in that exact situation when he went to see Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit wearing his spiffy new Google Glass. Both the theater and the Dept. of Homeland Security—which apparently laid in wait for any undesirables—didn’t take kindly to his Glass, prompting questioning from the feds. 

Known only as T.U., the Ohio man says he did wear his Glass to the movie theater, but they were not switched on, preventing him from recording anything—which, of course, was the theater’s main concern. Ditto for Homeland Security. However, because he wears prescription lenses, he opted to keep them on his face in order to see the film he just paid an exorbitant amount of money to see. 

AMC has confirmed the incident in a statement, so it looks like this is really, actually a problem now:

“While we’re huge fans of technology and innovation, wearing a device that has the capability to record video is not appropriate at the movie theater.”

See that? Not even an apology. And, given the message that the Ohio man sent to The Gadgeteer, they certainly owe him one. Just take a look at the way he says he was treated:

“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’."

So, not exactly off to a good start. But it only gets worse from there:

“I was surprised by this and as I was obviously just having a nice Saturday evening night out with my wife and not taping anything whether legally or illegally, I tried to explain that this is a misunderstanding. 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).” 

Now, keep in mind, the guy is accused of recording a movie illegally, not carrying a loaded weapon around without a permit, or walking around with a machete. Still, though, the feds didn’t seem to care:

“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?). I kept telling them that Glass has a USB port and not only did I allow them, I actually insist they connect to it and see that there was nothing but personal photos with my wife and my dog on it. I also insisted they look at my phone too and clear things out, but they wanted to talk first. 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.”

And, of course, they were concerned that the guy was somehow “working for Google,” as if the largest company on the internet needs to have some dude in Ohio pirate movies for them:

“They wanted to know where I got Glass and how did I came by having it. I told them I applied about 1000 times to get in the explorer program, and eventually I was selected, and I got the Glass from Google. I offered to show them receipt and Google Glass website if they would allow me to access any computer with internet. Of course, that was not an option. 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, they hooked the Glass up to a computer and found no crime had been committed. And what does the Ohio man get for his trouble? Nothing that makes it worth it: 

“A guy who claimed his name is Bob Hope (he gave me his business card) came in the room, and said he was with the Movie Association and they have problems with piracy at that specific theater and that specific movie. He gave me two free movie passes “so I can see the movie again”. 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.” 

All told, the ordeal lasted more than three hours, and all without an apology, plus the rough treatment to begin with. And all that for simply carrying around an emerging technology.

Looks like we can’t even amuse ourselves to death in peace anymore.