In the beginning, Glass’ biggest sin was looking weird. Now, Glass is both physically unattractive and morally suspect. Glass has transformed into a symbol of the class warfare that’s erupted in San Francisco as residents protest the high prices, evictions and gentrification brought by an infusion of Silicon Valley cash. Glass, with its high pricetag and privacy threat, has come to represent everything San Francisco’s activists resent about the tech industry: privilege, profligate living and a disrupt-or-bust mentality that prioritizes progress for a few over the well-being of many.
For example, you may have seen an ad for something on YouTube on your phone, looked it up using the Amazon app on your tablet, and eventually bought it on your computer. Unless you were logged into YouTube when you first saw the ad, Google can’t tell if the sale was a result of the ad, and can’t prove to advertisers—who spend half their mobile budgets with Google—that the money was well spent. It also can’t tell if it’s shown you the same ad over and over again to no effect—information it could use to target ads better.
This is a problem the entire online ad industry faces. But few have as much to lose as Google does, or the clout to push users around. Most companies would be lucky to get one app on your phone’s home screen. Google has a whole mobile operating system, Android. And even people who use Apple rather than Android devices can use a lot of Google apps on them—Google Earth, Drive, Hangouts, Translate, Blogger or even, yes, Google (which exists only to serve as the company’s data gathering tool). Hence its move to unify sign-in across them.
This change affects only Apple users who have upgraded to iOS 7, the latest version—but that’s 85% of iOS devices. They no longer have the ability to remain anonymous as they watch videos on YouTube or navigate their cities using Google Maps.