Privacy Couture

Posted by Flux on 

27 August 2019

What’s trending now?
In an attempt to protect one’s privacy from the growing web of global surveillance capitalism and the creeping surveillance state, consumers and companies alike are coming up with creative new ways to avoid detection and retain a veneer of privacy. It’s all about designer wear that conceals rather than reveals.

Why it’s important
Facial recognition is now ubiquitous; it can be found in city centres, schools, airports and even shopping malls around the world. While the technology has benefits for security, law enforcement and targeted advertising, it also represents a very real and pressing threat to personal privacy and civil liberties in contemporary society.

Of particular concern is the growing awareness that facial recognition is currently imperfect at best, and biased against certain ethnic groups – particularly with regards to crime and even pre-crime detection.

What’s the butterfly effect
Individuals are starting to realise just how little privacy they have these days and the extent of the public and private partnership that is the surveillance state. Just over half of all adult Americans for example, are already filed in state facial recognition databases while South Africa has begun testing similar systems in Johannesburg. As a consequence, people are starting to take steps to reclaim their privacy.

In cities such as San Francisco and Oakland in the US, activism over concerns relating to biased technology and civil rights violations has led to a complete ban on facial recognition within city limits.

However, for those citizens not lucky enough to live beyond the gaze of public cameras, many residents are resorting to “privacy couture” to conceal their identities from ever-watching eyes.

The pioneers and the global hot spots
Privacy couture, or privacy wear is a burgeoning industry, led by designers, activists and technologists who are conceptualising and producing garments, jewellery and style aesthetics designed with the express purpose of protecting personal identity from the prying eyes of smart cameras and facial recognition systems.

CV Dazzle produces a digital look book that illustrates how to use make-up and hair styling to protect your privacy.

Noma is a Polish design studio that has created a range of brass facial jewellery, called Incognito, designed to fool facial recognition software.

Nissey Corp , is a Japanese company that produces privacy visors, futuristic-looking titanium and mesh masks, designed to protect the wearer’s personal identity.

HyperFace (from the brains behind CV Dazzle, Adam Harvey) creates garments with “false faces” designed to “distract” facial recognition algorithms from discovering your real face.

Above: Watch how HyperFace works

Fabrica is an Italian design firm that has developed a range of elaborate head and neck pieces – complete with flashing LED lights, designed to both hide identity and to help wearers avoid thought-detection too. It’s claimed this is achieved by encouraging the wearer to focus their thoughts on the distractions provided by the randomly flashing lights installed in their wearable privacy protectors.

By Bronwyn Williams

About Bronwyn

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Image credit: Wired UK
Video credit: RT America

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