By Prescription Only: Google Will Brick Glasses If You Loan Them Out

Earlier this week, Google released spec sheets for its augmented reality Google Glass spectacles and updated its developer contracts to emphasize that no third party advertising is permitted. Today, apparently, the other shoe drops. The company's Terms of Service state that Google Glass users are not allowed to loan, transfer, or give the device to any other person. The full text reads:
You may not resell, loan, transfer, or give your device to any other person. If you resell, loan, transfer, or give your device to any other person without Google's authorization, Google reserves the right to deactivate the device, and neither you nor the unauthorized person using the device will be entitled to any refund, product support, or product warranty.
That's right. You are not allowed to loan Google Glass to a friend. You can't hand them to someone to test with their own Google account. You can't put them in a "Trial Mode" or resell them when you've decided to upgrade. If you feel like they were a poor investment, you can't attempt to resell them on eBay to recoup your loss.

Why You Should Care:

All too often, people respond to such fundamental restrictions by saying "It's just the EULA." But in this case, since Google Glass is tied to, and registered to a specific Google account (and you're required to open a Google Account to use Google Glass), the company knows exactly who has Glass and who doesn't. Yes, it's just the EULA -- but in this case, the EULA allows Google to deactivate a device you paid them $1500 to use.

This might seem like overreach, but it isn't. Google and other software companies aggressively lobbied courts to rule in 2010 that licensing language governed the right of resale. Federal regulators reviewing the DMCA's cell phone unlocking provision in 2012 ultimately removed the requirement that phones be able to be unlocked because they felt the 2010 Autodesk case had set precedent. If you agree to Google's terms, Google has the right to control your usage of the product in any way that it sees fit.

The other argument is that this type of restriction is only present because Google Glass is in its first-run deployment. Once the product goes into wide production, Google would surely lift such restrictions -- right?

Maybe. But if that's the case, it wouldn't hurt the company to say so. A simple one-line insertion into the relevant paragraph could stipulate that the rules were being tightened for the early deployment period. Wanting to ensure that all 1500 pairs of Google Glass go to good users is perfectly reasonable, and blocking eBay sales or third-party transactions makes sense in this context. But writing such stipulations into the general contract for users, without identifying them as special cases? That's a dangerous precedent.

Worse, it goes against everything that makes tech exciting. Granted, I wouldn't want to loan a $1500 pair of glasses to someone on an indefinite basis, but most people are going to want to see what Google Glass would show them using their own data. This type of restriction makes it nearly impossible to hand the device to a friend and offer them the chance to experiment with it, unless you first lock down your own private data.

There's a limited window to clarify the situation and guarantee that once the final product ships, end users will be able to resell the devices. Google, are you listening?