Attempts to dodge public video surveillance are nothing new. Vigilante IT handymen and independent hacking communities have been conjuring up makeshift solutions for the concerned citizen for decades. But times are changing, and as the streets become further saturated by big brother’s watchful eye, the everyman’s self-interest swells.
The DIY garage endeavors once embraced by paranoids have now hit the mainstream, making their way into the fields of academic research and even fashion.
A professor at Tokyo’s National Institute of Informatics recently created a stocky pair of glasses that will conceal the face of an individual from facial recognition software. Using a small array of near-infrared LED lights that are invisible to the human eye, Associate Professor Isao Echizen’s goggles fool detection software by creating virtual noise in a surveillance camera’s imaging sensor, disrupting readings on normal facial features.
Photo from the Tokyo National Institute of Informatics
This method of supervision circumvention is, of course, not the most fashionable look in the world. But it gets better than this.
Artist Adam Harvey has designed several concealing garments that go a step ahead of the aforementioned goggle technique. Fabricated from metallic based materials, Harvey’s “Stealth Wear” clothing line is meant to mask the wearer from airborne UAV surveillance.
Photos from ahprojects.com
The Stealth Wear series borrows from the fundamentals of traditional Muslim dress; “‘the veil which separates man or the world from God,’ replacing God with drone,” according to Harvey’s website. It works by reflecting underlying heat signatures from the wearer’s body, effectively foiling overhead drone aircraft that can now be legally used for public surveillance.
Harvey has also engineered a sort of Faraday cage for mobile device communications. The OFF Pocket is a small black bag that will fit just about any type of smart phone. When placed inside, the phone is disabled from all incoming and outgoing signals (such as text messages, calls, GPS and network connections).
In a world where the majority carries a smartphone on their person, the OFF Pocket and similar signal-interrupting devices are a wise investment for consumers who prefer to slip under the radar.
Alternatively Harvey has pursued experimentation in how creative makeup and hair styling can be used to mask identity. The Computer Vision Dazzle project has analyzed the inner workings of facial recognition software and created makeup schemes based on the principle of dazzle camouflage.
Photo from cvdazzle.com
Harvey explains that the aesthetic of this approach to surveillance concealment was adapted from both old tribal face painting and the new-wave club scene of the UK. And although some of the styles stick out like a sore thumb, the CV Dazzle is still a work in progress. As facial recognition software continues to evolve, further research will be invested into the camouflage initiative (with hopes of more discreet fashions coming in the future).
Our privacy will become increasingly compromised as technological advances speed up. But for all the disconcerting side effects of breached personal privacy, the public’s interest in such matters will likely spark creative new solutions as we’ve seen here.