A man who went to the movies with his wife in Columbus, Ohio, was subjected to a terrifying hour-long interrogation by the FBI because employees at the AMC theatre saw him wearing Google Glass.
They apparently thought he might be illegally taping the film and didn’t believe him when he tried to explain that the glasses were prescription, and weren’t even switched on.
The incident ought to make Glass wearers think twice about when and where they don their smart spectacles. (It also shows how feeble law enforcement’s knowledge of the new device is, too — it took them an hour before they figured out how to download the device’s content.)
AMC confirmed the incident in a statement to Business Insider:
Movie theft is something we take very seriously, and our theatre managers contact the Motion Picture Association of America anytime it’s suspected that someone may be illegally recording content on screen. While we’re huge fans of technology and innovation, wearing a device that has the capability to record video is not appropriate at the movie theatre. At AMC Easton 30 last weekend, a guest was questioned for possible movie theft after he was identified wearing a recording device during a film. The presence of this recording device prompted an investigation by the MPAA, which was on site. The MPAA then contacted Homeland Security, which oversees movie theft. The investigation determined the guest was not recording content.
The incident began when the man, writing anonymously on The Gadgeteer, was watching “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” with his wife:
About an hour into the movie (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), a guy comes near my seat, shoves a badge that had some sort of a shield on it, yanks the Google Glass off my face and says “follow me outside immediately”. It was quite embarrassing and outside of the theatre there were about 5-10 cops and mall cops.
He was then detained and treated like a criminal for the next hour:
I was searched and more stuff was taken away from me (specifically my personal phone, my work phone — both of which were turned off, and my wallet). After an embarrassing 20-30 minutes outside the movie theatre, me and my wife were conducted into two separate rooms in the “management” office of Easton Mall, where the guy with the badge introduced himself again and showed me a different ID.
… What followed was over an hour of the “feds” telling me I am not under arrest, and that this is a “voluntary interview”, but if I choose not to cooperate bad things may happen to me (is it legal for authorities to threaten people like that?). I kept telling them that Glass has a USB port and not only did I allow them, I actually insist they connect to it and see that there was nothing but personal photos with my wife and my dog on it. I also insisted they look at my phone too and clear things out, but they wanted to talk first. They wanted to know who I am, where I live, where I work, how much I’m making, how many computers I have at home, why am I recording the movie, who am I going to give the recording to, why don’t I just give up the guy up the chain, ’cause they are not interested in me. Over and over and over again.
The officers’ questions could have been answered with a simple check of the device’s content, and eventually the cops figured it out:
Eventually, after a long time somebody came with a laptop and an USB cable at which point he told me it was my last chance to come clean. I repeated for the hundredth time there is nothing to come clean about and this is a big misunderstanding so the FBI guy finally connected my Glass to the computer, downloaded all my personal photos and started going though them one by one (although they are dated and it was obvious there was nothing on my Glass that was from the time period they accused me of recording). Then they went through my phone, and 5 minutes later they concluded I had done nothing wrong.
The officer asking the questions identified himself as “Bob Hope” of the “movie association” — presumably the MPAA — and gave him four free passes to another movie at AMC. He didn’t apologise: “All he said was AMC called him, and he called the FBI … I would have been fine with ‘I’m sorry this happened, please accept our apologies.’ Four free passes just infuriated me.”