The lessons of George Orwell’s seminal work 1984 were not meant to be an instruction manual for the technocracy, yet here we are, allowing these Big Tech companies to trample on our Fourth Amendment rights on the daily.
Every time that we log in, sign up, or otherwise access the internet, our data is being harvested and sold to enormous corporations so that they can more accurately target us for advertising. They are studying us not through our actual transactions alone, however, often delving into our biological responses in order to exploit our subconscious biases.
It sounds dastardly because, frankly, it is.
With Big Brother watching us at all times, an odd new cottage industry has sprung up: Anti-surveillance clothing.
A new clothing line lets you camouflage yourself as a car to mess with surveillance cameras. The garments in the Adversarial Fashion collection are covered with license plate images that trigger automated license plate readers, or ALPRs, to inject junk data into systems used to monitor and track civilians.
ALPRs — which are typically mounted on street poles, streetlights, highway overpasses and mobile trailers — use networked surveillance cameras and image recognition to track license plate numbers, along with location, date and time.
Hacker and fashion designer Kate Rose showed off her inaugural line at the DefCon cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas over the weekend. It was inspired by a conversation with a friend who works at the Electronic Frontier Foundation about the “low specificity” or inaccuracy of a lot of plate readers on police cars.
And Rose isn’t the only one giving Americans options to thwart the surveillance state:
Artist Leo Selvaggio created a 3D-printed rubber mask aimed at foiling surveillance cameras by making everyone look like the same person — him. It started as an Indiegogo campaign and now sells for $200 (about £165, AU$296). And artist Adam Harvey created a hoodie and burqa designed to ward off the eyes of drones. They’re made with a metalized fabric meant to thwart thermal imaging, and they work by reflecting heat and masking the person underneath from the thermal eye of a drone.
While this is certainly an interesting phenomenon, and somewhat romantic in that it ties back to our love for dystopian themes, it also indicates that we have a serious privacy issue on our hands.
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