Ever since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on his employer, the United States National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013 and fled his native land, abandoning his wife, job, and life to seek asylum abroad, citizens concerned about warrantless communications surveillance has been on the minds of many Patriots.
Now, with the rise of facial recognition technologies and their normalization in airports, subways, and even Walmarts, the need for personal privacy and government anonymity grows stronger by the day.
- Five years ago, in 2014, avant-garde artist Adam Harvey used his CV Dazzle project to promote the idea that “fashion can be used as camouflage from face-detection technology, the first step in automated face recognition.” The name of this innovative project came from a type of naval camouflage used in World War I called Dazzle.
Dazzle camo was inspired by the artistic movement Cubism (think Pablo Picasso’s twisted portraits). The Navy painted abstract designs on their battleships to break apart the visual continuity of the large ship and conceal its orientation and size.
“CV Dazzle uses avant-garde hairstyling and makeup designs to break apart the continuity of a face,” according to their website. Computer algorithms match key facial features, including symmetry and tonal contours, to their database of known images. The “anti-face” blocks that pattern-matching, automated capability.
- CV Dazzle provided the inspiration for an Android app developer named Petr Prokop who introduced his Face Dazzler Its mission was very straight-forward and easy to understand:
“This application attempts to distort faces of photos so that they become unrecognizable by computer facial recognition.”
Harvey published fashion tips for privacy activists:
Makeup. Avoid enhancers because they amplify key facial features, making the contours of your face easier to detect. Instead, “apply makeup that contrasts with your skin tone in unusual tones and directions: light colors on dark skin, dark colors on light skin.”
Nose Bridge. The part of your face where the nose, eyes, and forehead meet is a key facial feature so block common facial recognition systems by partially obscuring this area cosmetically.
Eyes. The position and darkness of eyes is a key facial feature so partially obscure one of the ocular regions.
Masks. Rather than risk breaking the law by concealing your face with a mask, modify the contrast, tonal gradients, and spatial relationship of dark and light facial areas using “hair, makeup, and/or unique fashion accessories.”
Head. Block face detection by obscuring the elliptical shape of your head.
Asymmetry. Facial-recognition algorithms have been programmed that human faces are symmetrical between the left and right sides. Cultivate an asymmetrical look reduce the odds of being matched to a library of faces culled from official sources, as well as social media sites.
- In January 2017, Harvey, based in Berlin, Germany, and Hyphen-Labs, “an international, all-female design team formed to explore meeting points between technology, art and science,” introduced their new collaboration: the HyperFace textile print scarf:
When worn as a fashion accessory, a HyperFace scarf “gives a computer about 1,200 possible facial options” – a concept inspired by animals which use false coloration as natural camoflage.
“The aim is to reduce the confidence score of a true face, by introducing a background comprising false faces,” said Harvey.
- Shortly after Snowden’s alarming national security disclosures, John Brooks, a middle-school drop-out and self-taught computer coder, developed a desktop client “that was easy to use, offered anonymity and encryption, and even resolved the issue of metadata – the ‘to’ and ‘from’ headers and IP addresses spy agencies use to identify and track communications -long before the public was aware that the NSA was routinely collecting metadata in bulk for its spy programs.”
People are waking up to the reality that Big Brother is rapidly turning into a nameless, faceless computer algorithm – and, being the inventive and enterprising creatures that we are, figuring out ingenious ways to thwart the Surveillance State.
- You can also protect your vehicle from “facial recognition” by treating the license plate with a counter-surveillance product such as PhotoBlocker, a spray which is made from a special formula that, when applied, creates a high-powered gloss that reflects the photo flash from a red light or speed camera back toward the camera, blinding it.
The overexposed image of your license plate is unreadable so no traffic violation can be issued – and you can travel about on your daily business without Big Brother keeping tabs of your exact route.
As an interesting side note, Edward Snowden’s email provider, a company called Lavabit, tried to thwart the FBI’s investigation of the American Patriot. Ladar Levison, Lavabit’s owner, resisted unsuccessfully “the government’s request for information on one of his users and then a subsequent request for an encryption key that would allow agents to read the communication of all its users.”
You read that right: the FBI wanted a decryption key that would let it snoop into not only Snowden’s emails but those of every other Lavabit customer. When Levison ultimately did provide the email decoding key, he submitted “five, 2,560 character SSL encryption keys…on an 11-page printout in pretty much illegible 4-point type.”
The Snowden prosecutors complained that, “To make use of these keys, the FBI would have to manually input all 2,560 characters, and one incorrect keystroke in this laborious process would render the FBI collection system incapable of collecting decrypted data.”
The court agreed with the prosecution and ordered a $5,000-a-day fine. Five days after the original 4-point font printout was provided to the FBI, Levison turned over digital copies of the keys.
That same day, Levison closed his business, saying he did not want to “become complicit in crimes against the American people.”
Those crimes have continued unabated, to the point where We the People must take personal, proactive countermeasures to avoid non-stop monitoring by the never-sleeping Surveillance State.
It has come to this.