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Homeland Security agent snatches Google Glass off man’s face in movie theater

And the Oscar for biggest waste of police time goes to...


Miles Klee

Internet Culture

Posted on Jan 21, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 8:46 pm CDT

Texting at the movies can get you in trouble, but the cinema etiquette concerning a wearable computing device like Google Glass is still a bit up in the air. Or it was: Some poor guy had an Homeland Security agent allegedly grab the gadget off his face during a screening of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, after which he was taken from the theater and subjected to three hours of heated interrogation.

The apparently suspicious character, who spoke with Phandroid on the condition of remaining anonymous, explained that the federal agent approached him an hour into the movie, which was playing at an AMC theater at Easton Mall in Columbus, Ohio. Roughly confiscating his glasses—which were turned off and had prescription lenses—he walked him out to the lobby, where “5 to 10 officers” were gathered. Together they reportedly grilled him until he was shaking in fear, repeatedly suggesting that he was using the glasses to illegally record the movie. The Daily Dot reached out to the AMC theater and Columbus police for comment but did not hear back by press time. 

Mere possession of a recording device, of course, is hardly tantamount to active piracy. As one redditor pointed out, everyone in the theater was probably guilty of the former crime: “Even if he was recording the movie, it’s a shitty way to do so. Every head bob, every time he goes for his snack or drink, he will look away from the screen. … I’d be more worried about someone with the nokia lumia 1020 that has a 41 mp camera and records in HD.”

Eventually, satisfied that the Glass Explorer wasn’t shooting a bootleg, the feds allegedly returned the glasses and released him. For his pain and suffering, he received two free movie tickets. “This experience doesn’t change the way I wear Glass,” he said later. “I will just have another pair with me when I am going to the movies.” His normal backup pair, he explained, he kept in the car, having begun to wear Google Glass exclusively once he’d had it fitted with corrective lenses. He’s still trying to find out the names of the agents who questioned him, who it seemed were acting on intel that identified the AMC location as a problem spot for movie duplication.

Should a similar incident with law enforcement play out in the future, he plans to say nothing without a lawyer. “If I am in a traffic situation,” he added, “I plan to just be polite, and if the traffic officer decides to give me a ticket for wearing Glass I plan to fight it in court.” 

In his mind, what happened was less an abuse of power and misallocation of resources than simple technophobia. “I still remember the days when people didn’t want to put pictures of themselves on the Internet,” he said, “and now that’s all there is on the Internet.”

Correction: Phrandroid received a statement confirming that special agents with Homeland Security, not the FBI, “briefly interviewed a man suspected of using an electronic recording device to record a film at an AMC theater in Columbus.”

H/T Phandroid | Photo by Technews/Flickr 

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*First Published: Jan 21, 2014, 3:05 pm CST