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.
Edward Snowden’s ‘Snitch’ iPhone Case & 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.
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.”
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.
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.