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Counter-Moves to AI Surveillance

Updated: Dec 19, 2019

With ever increasing sophistication in AI surveillance technology to identify people across the world, it seems natural that there would be a counter point to that emergence.

With the existence of the 'Social Credit System' in China watching its citizens, scoring and subsequently punishing those deemed offenders by the state, it seems inevitable that people are going to do things to fool the technology.

A good example of people circumventing AI surveillance is with the protests occurring currently in Hong Kong. The protesters are well aware of the surveillance apparatus in place, and its ability to identify individuals and bring them to justice. They in turn have moved to wearing masks and using umbrellas in public to evade identification from authorities.

Blake Schmidt from the Japan Times states that,

"Questions over the use of facial recognition technology have loomed over the protests, stoking fears that Hong Kong is moving closer to a mainland-style surveillance state. Demonstrators have worn masks, destroyed CCTV cameras, torn down so-called smart lampposts and used umbrellas to hide acts of vandalism."

At the moment a face mask or an umbrella is sufficient to protect protesters identities but AI technology is fast moving to take partial images of faces and reconstruct the blanks to identify offenders. It's only a matter of time.

What is interesting to see is the emergence of ideas and technologies to circumvent surveillance. Kelsey Atherton of Popular Science Magazine describes new Japanese glasses that circumvent AI surveillance from identifying your face, he states,

"For people who don't want to be found, or just enjoy the previously unquestioned ability to travel without being tracked, facial recognition poses a risk. As a solution, Japan's National Institute of Informatics (NIII) created glasses that make faces unreadable to machines... these glasses use an unspecified novel material to absorb and reflect light, as well as angles and patterns on its lenses. Tests with smartphone cameras showed that the glasses fooled facial recognition 90 percent of the time."

New fashion items that will make you look like a background extra out of Bladerunner can be worn to stop cameras identifying your face. Stephen Johnson of Big Think describes a mask that can fool cameras and clothing materials that reflect light and confuse AI,

"In the Netherlands, Jip van Leeuwenstein designed a transparent "surveillance exclusion" mask that obfuscates a wearer's face to facial-recognition cameras but not other people... There has always been something subversive about streetwear, and one of the new areas of subversion is definitely surveillance and, in particular, facial recognition...anti-surveillance apparel includes shiny fabrics that reflect thermal radiation that drones search for, beanie hats that confuse the facial-recognition system."

It is interesting to consider the street fashions of tomorrow may evolve similarly to the punk movement forged in the 1970's. An organic process of evolving streetwear styles based on surveillance countermeasures.

Whereas punk fashion was a reaction to counter culture movements of the 60's and a statement of hopelessness, decay and failure of their period, the 2020's may give birth to a new movement and fashion that may appear as a statement against government surveillance and control incorporated into fashion items. We'll have to wait and see.

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