Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Image: Facebook

Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth says a key goal of the company's new $299 smart glasses is to kickstart a societal conversation on the norms around such products. On that front, the company has already succeeded.

State of play: Coverage of the launch of the Ray-Ban Stories focused as much on privacy issues as on the product themselves.

Driving the news: Announced Thursday, Ray-Ban Stories look like the company's signature shades but include dual cameras, speakers and an array of microphones to allow for taking pictures, recording short videos and playing music or taking phone calls.

Why it matters: Although smartphones can do those things and more, it's clear when you are holding a smartphone. By contrast, Ray-Ban Stories are hard to distinguish from the company's traditional sunglasses.

  • Bosworth said the goal is that bystanders will recognize the glasses are recording thanks to the small white LED that illuminates during recording or the audio command or button press the wearer will use to start recording.
  • From my experiences over the past week, as well as those of others, that is often not the case. I found, particularly in larger group settings, that people had no idea the glasses were capable of taking pictures until I showed them.

Between the lines: Facebook notes that it consulted with a number of privacy and advocacy groups as it developed the product. However, the ones whose names Facebook is disclosing — and who are speaking to the press about their work — are all funded in part by Facebook. And even many of them still have their concerns.

  • Jeremy Greenberg, privacy counsel for the Future of Privacy Forum, said it was good that the glasses signal when they are recording, but cautioned that people at a distance, with low vision or just not paying attention could easily miss the indicators. "Hopefully we don’t have folks using these for stalking."
  • John Breyault, VP of public policy for the National Consumers League, said that although Facebook takes pains to educate owners on best practices for taking pictures, "You put these out in the wild and people are going to use them the way they are going to use them."
  • Carlos Gutierrez of LGBT Tech: "There is still a huge privacy issue around people using these improperly," he said, noting the risks to people who are not out being captured in social settings, at a pride march or a protest.

The other side: Facebook did take several steps to preserve privacy that are worth calling out.

  • The devices don't upload anything automatically to Facebook's cloud, nor can they be used for live streaming. Customers have to transfer their photos and videos to a smartphone app. From there they can save the images and, if they want, share them to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or wherever.
  • There are multiple cues designed to indicate when the device is capturing content, though none are foolproof.

The big picture: Facebook isn't the first to offer smart glasses and it definitely won't be the last.

  • The pioneer in this area was Google Glass, which was probably a decade ahead of its time when it arrived in 2013, resulting in a product that was more creepy than capable.
  • Snap's first Spectacles, which came a couple years later, were similar to Ray-Ban Stories in focusing mainly on adding a camera to traditional frames. They proved more novelty than mainstream success. (The most recent version of Spectacles adds augmented reality and other capabilities, but they are only available to creators selected by Snapchat.)

What's next: Facebook, along with the rest of the industry, is pretty clear that augmented reality glasses are the next big thing. However, fully-featured glasses that are capable, stylish and affordable are still years-off.

  • In the meantime, expect a lot of experimentation with devices that combine some, but not all, of those features. Ray-Ban Stories represents an experiment of what's possible without losing style and affordability. At the high end, devices like Microsoft's Hololens are bulky and expensive, but hint at the more powerful possibilities.

My thought bubble: Bosworth is right — it's time to have a discussion on where such devices are appropriate and what standards should apply to the people that make the products as well as those who use them.

  • That conversation started with Google Glass, including a sharp initial backlash. But the issue fell off the radar because the products didn't take off.

The bottom line: Expect a lot more from Facebook in coming years. The company keenly wants to control the next generation of hardware rather than have to play by Apple and Google's rules.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
Sep 19, 2021 - Technology

Axios interview: Facebook to try for more transparency

Nick Clegg last year. Photo: Matthew Sobocinski/USA Today via Reuters

Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs, tells me the company will try to provide more data to outside researchers to scrutinize the health of activity on Facebook and Instagram, following The Wall Street Journal's brutal look at internal documents.

Driving the news: Clegg didn't say that in his public response to the series. So I called him to push for what Facebook will actually do differently given the new dangers raised by The Journal.

Pelosi's back-to-school math problem

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) may need votes from an unlikely source — the Republican Party — if she hopes to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by next Monday, as she's promised Democratic centrists.

Why it matters: With at least 20 progressives threatening to vote against the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill, centrist members are banking on more than 10 Republicans to approve the bill.

By the numbers: Haitian emigration

Expand chart
Data: CBP; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The number of Haitians crossing the U.S.-Mexico border had been rising even before their country's president was assassinated in July and the island was struck by an earthquake a month later.

Why it matters: A spike during the past few weeks — leaving thousands waiting in a makeshift camp under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas — has prompted a crackdown and deportations by the Biden administration.