Tags: NSA/Surveillance | surveillance | cameras | privacy | london | detroit

Artists, Designers Protest Facial Recognition Surveillance

Surveillance cameras in London
Surveillance cameras in London. (Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 27 September 2019 07:17 AM

A group of artists recently made a different kind of fashion statement when they took to the streets of London wearing bold makeup as a form of protest against the use of facial-recognition cameras.

Concerns over privacy issues have been raised as public and private sectors around the globe turn to the controversial technology in a bid to monitor crowds and tackle crime. Now community members are pushing back.

London artist Emily Roderick joined others to form The Dazzle Club, a collaborative initiative of artists, designers, and community members who protest the surveillance systems by staging monthly walks through the city streets with their faces painted as way of camouflaging themselves against the cameras.

"We're hiding in plain sight," Roderick told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. She explained that dark makeup could interfere with a camera's ability to accurately recognize faces.

The artist walked with her group through the King's Cross area, where multiple cameras have been set up to track the thousands of visitors, Financial Times reported earlier this year.

The property developer for the King's Cross estate explained that the cameras "use a number of detection and tracking methods, including facial recognition, but also have sophisticated systems in place to protect the privacy of the general public."

On American soil, debates continue over the implementation of facial recognition technology within the Detroit Police Department. Last week, the Board of Police Commissioners approved guidelines endorsing the use of the technology, as well as restrictions to prevent its misuse, NBC News reported.

Some residents welcomed the decision but on a broader scale, activists are raising concerns about lost privacy. Joining them in protest are artists and designers around the world who are making it common practice to cheat cameras by camouflaging themselves with makeup, sunglasses, and masks.

For Roderick and members of The Dazzle Club, their decision to use bright face paint was based on an art project by U.S. artist Adam Harvey, which was themed around a camouflage technique used in World War I. He then designed a textile pattern that featured stylized faces and which prompted cameras to make false identifications.

"The main objective of this project is to show people that surveillance is not invincible," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Joining the widening campaign is Chicago-based designer Scott Urban, who has managed to develop sunglasses that actually block the detection from the facial recognition cameras, as well as an online fashion brand that designed a range of clothing protesting the technology with bold statements.

Another U.S. artist, Leonardo Selvaggio, developed masks by creating a prosthetic copy of his own face. He now sells the masks to the public in an effort to raise awareness and to confuse the facial recognition systems.

"My hypothesis was that if we could do that large enough — and hopefully eventually with other faces — then we could call into question facial recognition's ability to do its job," he explained.

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A group of artists recently made a different kind of fashion statement when they took to the streets of London wearing bold makeup as a form of protest against the use of face-recognition cameras.
surveillance, cameras, privacy, london, detroit
Friday, 27 September 2019 07:17 AM
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