Fashion strikes back against surveillance technology with stealth wear

| April 12, 2013

“Over the next 15 years, the US Federal Aviation Administration anticipates more than 20,000 new drones will appear in American skies, owned not just by law enforcement agencies and the military, but also public health bodies and private companies.” (Report: PSFK) This rise in surveillance technology includes face recognition software, body scans, and cell phones as GPS locators. This loss of privacy has disturbed many individuals and groups, including the fashion industry.

stealth wear

Adam Harvey’s collection- Stealth Wear [Image via Web Urbanist]

In his series called ‘Stealth Wear’, designer Adam Harvey experiments with anti-drone garments made out of metallized fabric that protect wearers from thermal imaging surveillance, a technology used widely by UAVs/drones. The fabric reflects heat, masking the wearer’s thermal signature. “Conceptually, these garments align themselves with the rationale behind the traditional hijab and burqa: to act as ‘the veil which separates man or the world from God,’ replacing God with drone,” says Harvey.

Harvey designed Stealth Wear for “exploring the ways in which we can interact and aestheticize our culture of rising surveillance.” Simply put, right now they’re more of a conversation piece than functional gear. The cell phone pocket is another conceptual element: it blocks all incoming and outgoing phone signals. Flexible and waterproof, it  is “software and carrier agnostic.”

This isn’t the first project Adam Harvey has created to comment on privacy and surveillance. Before Stealth Wear, Harvey created CV Dazzle as a master’s student. WebUrbanist.com reports: “Developed as his master’s thesis, Harvey’s project CV Dazzle attempted to find makeup and hair styles that would elude recognition. This collaboration between hair stylists, makeup artists and fashion designers used custom software that exposes the vulnerabilities of the OpenCV face detection algorithm, creating styles that exploit these weaknesses.”

dazzle-makeup

Adam Harvey’s CV Dazzle makeup prevents facial recognition software from identifying distinctive features (via boingboing.net).

Unlike Stealth Wear, CV Dazzle is not an obvious camouflage. Its striking colors and patterns draw attention rather than hide from it. The idea is to confuse facial recognition software. Automated face detection systems often look for the difference between the dark and light regions of the face. CV Dazzle thwarts automated face recognition systems by changing the spatial relationship and contrast of important facial features. “One trick is to darken areas that usually seem bright, like the upper cheek or the nose bridge (the region where the nose, eyes, and forehead intersect) area.” reports DIS Magazine.

Camouflage is traditionally used in the military. Not unlike Harvey, Guy Cramer, CEO of HyperStealth, a Canadian camouflage company, has created an “intelligent textile” named Smartcamo, capable of changing color to match its surroundings. Although such products can’t fool surveillance technology all the time, they serve to highlight a growing public concern.

Category: Surveillance, Trespassing

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