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Some Guy Got Detained by the FBI Homeland Security for Watching a Movie Wearing Prescription Google Glass [Updated]

Some people don't get how movie piracy works, and those are the people who care about movie piracy.


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Update, 1/22/2014: an update on the original Gadgeteer story clarified that it was the Department of Homeland Security and not the FBI who interrogated the Google Glass wearer in question, despite what he originally thought. We’ve amended our coverage of the story to reflect that as well. Also, we’ve changed out the fake name we gave him when he was still writing anonymously with what the Washington Post quotes him as, Tiberiu Ungureanu.

Last weekend, a man in Columbus, Ohio went to go see Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit with his wife and, in an ironic twist, ended up being interrogated by the FBI Department of Homeland Security for an hour instead. The reason? He was wearing Google Glass.

Tiberiu Ungureanu recently wrote in to The Gadgeteer saying that he has worn the glasses to his local AMC several times before and even struck up a few conversations with the employees about it in the past, so he thought wearing them to see Jack Ryan wouldn’t be a problem. His pair are fitted with prescription frames, after all — as long as he turns the camera off while he’s in the actual theater, everything should be cool, right?

Nope! Apparently somebody at AMC was so concerned that Joe might be taping the movie that rather than talk to him about it as one human might do to another, they called the DHS, who obviously dropped everything to go harass a nerd.


An hour into the movie, Ungureanu was more or less yanked out of his seat by a dude with a badge and led to a different part of the mall, where the dude and his partner took Ungureanu’s wallet, personal phone, work phone, and the Google Glass — which, along with the prescription frames, cost upwards of $2000. Then, they interrogated him for over an hour, asking him questions like “Where did you get the Glass?”, “How did Google select you for the Glass?”, “Who do you work for?”, “Who put you up to recording the movie?”  and presumably, later, “ADMIT IT GOOGLE WANTS YOU TO PIRATE MOVIES RIGHT!?” (We’re just guessing on that last one.)

All the while, Ungureanu tried to convince them to let him turn the Glass on and show them that he had done nothing wrong — which, by the way, is a no-no. You should never answer questions from the FBI without a lawyer present, even if you’re completely innocent, because they have a history of massaging their suspects’ answers to fit their narrative. Ungureanu definitely learned that, because the federal agents who questioned him refused to even consider that it was all a mistake.

Finally they got somebody down there to turn the Glass on and connect it to a computer. You’d think they’d have brought that guy with them to begin with, but okay, FBI, feel free to continue not making sense. Joe writes:

[A]fter 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 representative from the Movie Association who put the call to the DHS eventually apologized for the confusion and gave Ungureanu free passes to see the rest of the movie. Right, like that’s worth having your rights violated for. Great.

To be clear, we think that Ungureanu probably should have thought to wear a regular pair of prescription glasses rather than the ones that are capable of recording and storing large amounts of video. The argument has been made that all of us carry phones which are capable of doing something similar and we all don’t get flak for it, but if you took your phone out and held it up to the screen for an extended period of time, someone would probably come over and tell you to stop.

But that’s where the problem lies with this scenario: nobody actually asked Joe to just take off the glasses. If that had happened, as Ungureanu says, ” I would have probably sat five or six rows closer to the screen (as I didn’t have any other pair of prescription glasses with me) and none of this would have happened. ” Instead, somebody on the staff called their movie association representative, who called the Department of Homeland Security. Because the guy with the $2,000 pair of robot glasses is totally using them to steal movies. Come on.

(via Business Insider, image via lawrencegs on Flickr)

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