Fashion meets privacy for the age of surveillance -

Fashion meets privacy for the age of surveillance -

Anti-surveillance fashion has been a growing trend for the past several years, accelerated by both increasingly widespread biometric monitoring and rising awareness among the public about its potential for misuse.

It can take many forms, including clothing that incorporates complex patterns or designs that confuse software algorithms, or strategically applied conventional cosmetics that render the wearer unrecognizable to machines.

Although technologies like facial recognition can have benign applications, such as unlocking a phone or tagging individuals on social media, it has also been used to log people’s biometric information into vast databases without their knowledge or consent.

Clearview, a facial-recognition firm that has been fined millions of dollars in Europe and Australia for breaches of privacy, has run nearly a million searches for US police, according to a recent report by BBC. It said it had 30 billion images scraped from social media platforms like Facebook, taken without users’ permission.

A study in 2016 by researchers at the Center on Privacy & Technology, a thinktank affiliated to Georgetown University, showed that half of adult Americans had their faces logged in law-enforcement databases. The use of surveillance technologies is often justified by those in favor of them by citing public-safety concerns.

For example, the New York police department (NYPD) relies on a network of more than 15,000 cameras to track people using facial recognition in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, according to a research by Amnesty International. Privacy advocates say that such surveillance systems amplify racially discriminatory policing and threaten personal freedoms like the right of peaceful assembly.

The UN Human Rights Council has recently been warned that high-risk surveillance technologies were being deployed around the world without due regard to the rule of law, governance, and human rights.

The pandemic has worsened the situation, and advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are expected to exacerbate it further. The surveillance technology market is projected to almost double from $114 billion in 2021 to $213 billion in 2026.

There has been some pushback against the trend – with public outcry in France over the government’s plans to deploy an AI-driven crowd monitoring system at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

In the end, it may fall to individuals to safeguard their own privacy rights, and a new generation of clothes designed with that aim in mind are available.

13 April 2023

Justinas Vainilavičius

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