How to Be Invisible: 15 Anti-Surveillance Gadgets & Wearables
By SA Rogers, Web Urbanist, 28 November 2016.
By SA Rogers, Web Urbanist, 28 November 2016.
We don’t have to wait for a dystopian future in which our faces are scanned as we walk down the sidewalk and our every movement is logged - we willingly carry personally identifiable tracking devices in our pockets everywhere we go, and cameras are everywhere. What’s the average law-abiding citizen concerned with privacy to do, let alone activists and protesters seeking to exercise their constitutional rights? These wearable counter-surveillance designs, including drone-evading cloaks, signal-blocking phone cases and fingerprint spoofers, aim to provide us with privacy-preserving tools in the age of Big Brother.
1 and 2. Edward Snowden’s ‘Snitch’ iPhone Case and The Tunnel Case
Designed by the infamous whistleblower Edward Snowden himself, who knows a thing or two about the NSA, this modified iPhone 6 case features a screen that monitors when an iPhone is transmitting, covers the rear camera and triggers alerts when the phone is transiting data via radio signals that can make a user detectable.
“If you have a phone in your pocket that’s turned on, a long-lived record of your movements has been created,” Snowden explained while presenting the case at MIT’s Media Lab via video connection from Russia. “As a result of the way the cell network functions your device is constantly shouting into the air by means of radio signals a unique identity that validates you to the phone company. And this unique identity is not only saved by that phone company, but it can also be observed as it travels over the air by independent, even more dangerous third parties.”
A lower tech option with similar albeit less robust features, called the Tunnel case, provides similar benefits and is available now, unlike Snowden’s concept. It’s a signal-jamming copper-lined sleeve that blocks all electromagnetic frequencies within ten seconds, making you untraceable.
3. URME Anti-Surveillance Prosthetic Mask
There’s no denying that this 3D-printed resin prosthetic mask is creepy looking - especially the way the wearer’s eyes tend not to line up correctly with the eye holes. But wearing another man’s face can help you slip past biometric scanners without revealing your true identity. Artist Leo Selvaggio has lent us all the use of his visage so facial detection software identifies the wearer as him. The mask is also available in a budget-friendly, printable paper version.
“Our world is becoming increasingly surveilled,” reads the URME website offering the mask. “For example, Chicago has over 25,000 cameras networked to a single facial recognition hub. We don’t believe you should be tracked just because you want to walk outside and you shouldn’t have to hide either. Instead, use one of our products to present an alternative identity when in public.”
4. Fingerprint-Spoofing Strips
The IDENTITY kit by Mian Wei is a ‘fingerprint substitute’ you apply to the tips of your fingers like band-aids. Since fingerprints are biological identifiers that we can’t change, they can be used against us, and the rise of consumer devices requiring a fingerprint passcode can put this crucial piece of identity verification at risk. The black prosthetics are made of a mixture of conductive silicone and fibers so you can assign ‘false fingerprints’ to your iPhone and other devices, and so your ‘fingerprint’ can’t be molded and used as a key to your life.
5. Makeup That Thwarts Facial Detection
For now, facial detection software still isn’t quite advanced enough to recognize human faces that significantly depart from the usual symmetric arrangement of features. That’s where the ‘anti-face’ comes in, a way of altering your appearance via hairstyles and cosmetics to fool computers into thinking they’re looking at something other than a face.
The CVDazzle project explores this idea with a series of six style tips for reclaiming privacy, explaining how to foil detection via makeup, obscuring the nose bridge and eyes as well as the elliptical shape of your face, modifying contrast and avoiding symmetry.
6. Stealth Wear Anti-Drone Clothing by Adam Harvey
Even if you manage to hide your fingerprints and your face, you can still be spotted by heat-seeking drones from above, right? Not when you’re wearing one of these garments by New York designer Adam Harvey. The lightweight ponchos and burka-like head and body coverings reflect heat in all the right places to avoid detection.
7. CCD-Thwarting LED Umbrellas
This umbrella by the Sentient City project is studded with infrared LEDs only visible to CCD surveillance camera systems, which typically recognize human figures via light sensitivity, essentially making you a surveillance saboteur in service of the greater good. Your movements with the umbrella confuse the cameras, training them to recognize non-human shapes and patterns.
8. Anti-Neuroimaging Surveillance Headgear
The next stage of invasive surveillance technology goes much further than just identifying you as you pass - it can potentially read your thoughts. Neuroimaging devices for political purposes are already in development in the US and UK with an absence of any ethical oversight, so we may not be far from a reality in which machines can figure out our intentions (ostensibly to prevent crime.)
This series of headpieces by Italian design center Fabrica subverts the process via electric shocks and flashing lights, forcing the wearer to think about something inconsequential to maintain their own privacy.
9. KOVR Anti-Surveillance Coat
In the same way that a tunnel can cut off signals to your cell phone, this coat by Dutch design firm KOVR keeps passing devices from reading sensitive information you might be carrying on your phone, ID or credit cards via RFID and NFC chips.
Made of metalliferous fabrics, it literally creates a shield around you body to block signals. If you want to be able to receive texts and calls, you simply put your phone in a special pocket on the outside of the garment.
10. Backslash Toolkit
Backslash is a toolkit made by NYU Interactive Technology Program researchers to aid protesters facing a “hyper-militarized” surveillance-wielding counter-force, like SWAT teams. Its contents include a ‘smart bandanna’ with a digital print that contains secret messages in its patterns, which are unlocked depending on the way in which you fold it, as well as a short-range personal jammer, a panic button that notifies others in your group to let them know they’re entering an unsafe area, a smart spray-paint stencil to warn against surveillance, a personal router for creating offline localized connections and a ‘personal blackbox’ for vital data.
It’s not available for sale, but rather intended to spark dialogue about maintaining personal rights in a world of constantly advancing (and increasingly violent) dissension-suppressing technologies.
11. LED Light Privacy Visor
This privacy visor designed by Japan’s National Institute for Informatics might like kind of dorky, but the arrangement of LED lights around its eyes and nose thwarts face-detecting software at any distance. The light creates ‘noise’ that confuses the computers. You simply activate the lights whenever traveling in a place that might be equipped with facial recognition cameras.
12. Google Jammer Coat by Coop Himmelb(l)au
It might look like a wearable duvet, but this quilted coat by architecture studio Coop Himmelb(l)au is a portable signal-blocker preventing radio waves and tracking devices from connecting to your smartphone, tablet and other devices.
The CHBL Jammer Coat is intended to help you ‘disappear,’ from its metalliferous fibers to the amorphous shape and patterns that obscure your physicality.
13. The Smell of Data: Fragrance Alerts Wearer to Leaks
You can literally smell danger in the air when this grenade-shaped scent diffuser is activated, alerting you of data leaks from your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Placed on your desk as you work, it releases a metallic scent when you encounter an unprotected website or network on any of your devices. The designers were inspired by the way humans are alerted to danger via the smell of gas leaks.
14. Serendipitor App: Disrupt Predictability by Varying Your Route
Sentient City’s Serendipitor App disrupts any surveillance that relies on subjects maintaining predictable routines. You enter your destination and it’ll provide a route that will get you where you need to go in the most efficient way possible, but incorporating intentional detours and minor interruptions.
Along your way, you’ll be given instructions for movement and action that forces you to be spontaneous and unpredictable.
15. REALFACE Glamouflauge by Simone C. Niquille
It’s harder for computers to recognize your real face when you’re also wearing dozens of representations of other people’s faces. This clothing range designed by Simone C. Niquille is based on the ‘real tree’ camouflage system, but with the faces of celebrity impersonators and other ‘pirated’ identities.
“Both of these faces exist in multiples, raising questions of identity, privacy and verification, is this Michael Jackson? Realface Glamouflage offers privacy the way it should be, as a mundane commodity in the form of a t-shirt.”
Top gif image: URME Anti-Surveillance Prosthetic Mask. Credit: Image created from Leo Selvaggio/Vimeo.
[Source: Web Urbanist. Edited. Top image added.]