Invisibility cloaks

Clothing to make you invisible to to digital snoops?images

The term “stealth wear” sounded cool, if a bit extreme, when I first heard it early this year, reports today’s New York Times .”It’s a catchy description for clothing and accessories designed to protect the wearer from detection and surveillance. I was amused. It seemed like an updated version of a tinfoil hat, albeit a stylish one.

“Fast-forward a few months. Flying surveillance cameras, also known as drones, are increasingly in the news. So are advances in facial-recognition technology. And wearable devices like Google Glass — which can be used to take photographs and videos and upload them to the Internet within seconds — are adding to the fervor. Then there are the disclosures of Edward Snowden, the fugitive former government contractor, about clandestine government surveillance.

“It’s enough to make countersurveillance fashion as timely and pertinent as any seasonal trend, like midriff tops or wedge sneakers. Adam Harvey, an artist and design professor at the School of Visual Arts and an early creator of stealth wear, acknowledges that countersurveillance clothing sounds like something out of a William Gibson novel.

“The science-fiction part has become a reality,” he said, “and there’s a growing need for products that offer privacy.”Mr. Harvey exhibited a number of his stealth-wear designs and prototypes in an art show this year in London. His work includes a series of hoodies and cloaks that use reflective, metallic fabric — like the kind used in protective gear for firefighters — that he has repurposed to  reducea person’s thermal footprint. In theory, this limits one’s visibility to aerial surveillance vehicles employing heat-imaging cameras to track people on the ground.

“He also developed a purse with extra-bright LEDs that can be activated when someone is taking unwanted pictures; the effect is to reduce an intrusive photograph to a washed-out blur. In addition, he created a guide for hairstyling and makeup application that might keep a camera from recognizing the person beneath the elaborate get-up. The technique is called CV Dazzle — a riff on “computer vision” and “dazzle,” a type of camouflage used during World War II to make it hard to detect the size and shape of warships.”

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