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Berkeley resident assaulted in SF for wearing Google Glass

Kyle Russell photo by Karyne Levy

Berkeley resident and journalist Kyle Russell wearing his Google Glass shortly before he was assaulted on Friday, April 12,2014. Photo: Karyne Levy

Berkeley resident Kyle Russell was assaulted while walking down the sidewalk in San Francisco’s Mission District on Friday last week because he was wearing Google Glass. The incident follows other similar assaults in San Francisco, which has also seen protests against Google and other tech companies for what is perceived to be their detrimental impact on the city. In January, activists also turned up at the home of a Google staffer who lives in Berkeley. Russell wrote about his experience for Business Insider where he works:

A colleague and I had just finished covering a march in protest of a Google employee who had recently evicted several tenants after buying and moving into a home in the area.

After more than an hour spent working on the story in a coffee shop, I arranged my laptop, camera, and notes in my backpack. Mindlessly, I put on Google Glass instead of squeezing it in with the rest of my things.

(In retrospect, I can see how that might not have been the best idea.)

The aforementioned colleague and I were on our way to the 16th Street BART station — I’ll note that I wasn’t using any device at the time — when a person put their hand on my face and yelled, “Glass!”

In an instant the person was sprinting away, Google Glass in hand.

I ran after, through traffic, to the corner of the opposite block. The person pivoted, shifting their weight to put all of their momentum into an overhand swing. The Google Glass smashed into the ground, and they ran in another direction.

Not knowing what to do, I scooped up the remains and continued to follow. We went back in the direction of the intersection where it started when the person ran into my colleague while I was blocked by traffic. After a brief moment, the person got away.

That’s when a police car pulled up. I gave the person’s description to two officers and they drove in the direction the person ran off. After several minutes, they came back and I filed a police report.

While I was waiting for their return, I tweeted about what happened.

Word got around quickly.

Initial reactions from friends on Twitter were very supportive — and then the trolls and anti-tech crowd showed up.

At first, I failed to see the humor in what had happened to me.

I had just been mugged, right?

After all, people acknowledge that the theft of someone’s expensive jewelry is wrong, despite its price. Why were people laughing at my misfortune or implying I somehow deserved it?

Continue reading on Business Insider where this column first appeared

Related:
Activists target Google employee at his Berkeley home (01.22.14)

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  • SamBurns1

    I think this is a textbook example of someone who is way too green to a journalist, and Business Insider needs to reevaluate who they have as their boots on the ground covering San Francisco. If you read the whole post you’ll see that Russell goes on the somehow side with his attacker…that what happened was somehow okay in the grand scheme of San Francisco’s housing affordability problems.
    Sorry, that’s complete bull.
    This was assault, theft and vandalism. Period.
    It’s a fallacy and very poor “reporting” to make the claim that San Francisco’s housing crisis is the result of a very small segment of the population becoming wealthy IN THE PAST THREE YEARS…and that those people should be demonized and assaulted.
    The stats do not support this view. In fact, read a story in today’s New York Times that shows how unaffordable rising rents are a national problem in big cities – the result of many factors, not the least of which is that people can’t get mortgages to buy (so they are flooding the rental market). But, of course, the NYT is doing fact-based reporting, something Business Insider might want to consider.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/15/business/more-renters-find-30-affordability-ratio-unattainable.html

  • hey kid, get off my lawn!

    kind of reminds me of the loathing the Sony Walkman generated waaaay back in the 80′s.
    my mom once told me not to wear anything in public I wasn’t prepared to lose, tho.

  • Chris J

    I guess I don’t really understand the ire against this technology. Its a computer and video camera you can where on your head. I can understand people being nervous about being recorded surreptitiously with the device ( though why strangers in a bar…in a public place…would think that they were a target of photographic interest is beyond me); even my wife wonders how she would feel in a public place were someone to wear the device beside her…during a business meeting. Much as with the use of cellphones, the dictums of politeness and social convention will come out.

    Personally, at this point, while I’m intrigued by the tech, I wouldn’t have one or wear it in public. Kinda defeats the purpose.

  • BerkeleyCitizen

    I think the author’s youth and vulnerability are valuable assets to the story. It’s really a personal account and not meant to be an objective account of an event. His story demonstrates how victims of assault often wonder if they were somehow at fault for what happened–not necessarily a rational feeling, but something that runs through the minds of many who’ve ever been unexpectedly assaulted while just going about their business like this. Of course what happened was wrong, theft, physical assault and intimidation are not OK, and those who did it should suffer some consequences. The people who are protesting in SF have to remember that their targets are people too, and their protests should be conducted in a way that allows them to have their free speech but does not deny others their right to personal liberty.

  • SamBurns1

    He was on assignment for Business Insider to “report” on the Google bus protest. He’s clearly ill-informed about the issues, and biased in a troubling way. It’s not amusing that he has taken the side of those who think crime and vandalism is a way to solve San Francisco’s longtime housing shortage.
    Even the awful SF Chronicle had a piece about how these activists know that Google is not to blame for the city’s many woes, and that the company is powerless to solve the city’s problems. But activists admit they saw an opening to gain media attention by demonizing Google…because the media just loves that stuff.
    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/How-tech-became-the-enemy-then-and-now-5342897.php

    I say we start holding the media more accountable for so easily being baited and for perpetuating false information that’s causing harm. That includes telling Business Insider that we expect a modicum of actual fact-based reporting by its staff.

  • Tasersaurus

    Of all places, Techcrunch has published a very fine example of what I think you’re talking about: http://techcrunch.com/2014/04/14/sf-housing/

  • Chris

    Just wait until the cell phone thiefs realize that instead of walking around with $500 next to your ear, you have $1500 sitting on your face!

  • guest

    Some people compensate with large pickup trucks, some people need to wear the latest fashions, and some folks need to compensate with expensive electronics over their eyes.

  • Devin

    I’m sorry this happened to you Kyle and I applaud the maturity you exhibited in minimizing your own suffering to focus on the larger issues at play in San Francisco (such as an ever-increasing wealth disparity). This is very different than condoning vandalism or the moron who broke your gear – this would be a better world to live in if we all were to take a page from this young man’s book and walk a mile in our enemy’s shoes (in my experience, this often leads to the realization that you have fewer enemies than you first thought).

  • notnot2

    It is the same things that are in an iphone right? More or less?

  • bingo

    I find it odd that these “glass” stories attract so much attention when there are overwhelming numbers of other citizens everyday that are punched in the face or otherwise assaulted in SF (and in Berkeley). The root causes for crime are never a shiny new tech product; social ills exist regardless.

  • noahca

    Google Glass poses real privacy questions. Mugging aside, should people be allowed to casually film everyone they come in contact with without their consent?

  • Berkeleyborn123

    Imagine life under the left wing Taliban..so faithful in their beliefs they will threaten
    Others with violence. They are no different than the anti-evolution crowd

  • Davyd

    Don’t come to berkeley side. My comment here wasn’t approved and for no good reason. I shared why I thought people disliked Google Glass. Comment not directed at anyone, no bad language or controversy. Seems like some info they want to hide or they are trying to push an agenda. Gross. I’m sure this comment wont be approved either but at least the approver got to read it and I could waste their time.

  • Guest

    Nothing justifies physical assault, but I’ll confess to an intense antipathy towards anyone wearing Glass in my presence, because it feels like an aggressive assault on my privacy. I can imagine asking someone I know to “Please remove your Google Glass”, but how do I request this of a stranger in front of me at the grocery store?