Privacy fightback

Anti-surveillance clothing: surveillance for commercial gain – not security purposes – is what really breeds resentment

January 17, 2017

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Photograph: Adam Harvey

There has been growing press coverage about anti-surveillance clothing and paraphernalia to counter the effectiveness of face recognition, including this recent article in the Guardian.

The real issue with regards to the development of anti-surveillance paraphernalia and the ability of technology suppliers to circumvent it is not an issue of technology, but rather a social one. Advocates and opponents will continuously leapfrog each other with their ability to detect and counter.

What we should focus on is understanding the reason for dissent and working together as a society to develop an ethical and moral code of conduct. Innocent people rightly have an expectation of privacy and do not want to be followed, tracked or traced.


Reflectacles “are the first collection of light-reflecting eyewear and sunglasses” and “protect your identity from the growing surveillance-state”


We’re often asked: “Why do you care what I’m doing? Or where I’m going? Or what I’m doing?” And the answer, simply, is: “We don’t.”

At Allevate, together with our partners Facewatch, our goal, our self-directed mandate, is to improve and better society. To create safe places for people to gather, to minimise the threat of crime and attack and to aid the authorities in identifying and apprehending those that seek to do the opposite.

However, like many technologies, there is the potential for face recognition technology to serve multiple purposes. In our experience, society does not object to safeguarding our children, reducing crime and the threat of terrorist attack and making our world a safer place.

The objections arise when it is the law-abiding citizen being identified for the commercial gain of somebody else, without their consent.

Yes, we will continue to develop mechanisms to ensure we accurately identify people, but the real solution is dialogue – open and honest.

If all non-security applications of such technology are transparent and driven by opt-in and consent, then perhaps the only people that will try to reduce their effectiveness are the criminals, which will only serve to make them stand out even more.

You can read more on Allevate’s views on this subject in this whitepaper: Face Recognition: Profit, Ethics and Privacy.

View from a video surveillance developer

“Physical security systems, including video surveillance, are in place to help our cities, businesses, and citizens stay safe. They do this, in part, by enabling a rapid response to dangerous or illegal activities when they arise. These systems are a core component of any operation’s ability to be resilient – to respond to an incident and return to normal as quickly as possible. 

“At Genetec, we believe that securing people’s everyday lives should not entail a trade-off between security and privacy. The privacy of individuals is fundamental to our unified vision of physical security – for this purpose, we utilise a privacy masking solution that automatically blur distinguishing features of individuals recorded on video surveillance systems. 

“Our unique technology records two streams of data, a ‘masked’ stream for monitoring and an ‘unmasked’ stream for situations that require investigation.  What makes our approach different is that the second, ‘unmasked’ stream is encrypted and can be unlocked only by designated individuals, like a judge or senior investigator. 

 “We are excited about the future of this and other technology and are confident that it will help reassure the public that they don’t have to sacrifice security for privacy.”

Andrew Elvish, VP of marketing and product management, Genetec

hyperface pattern adam harvey

Hyperface pattern by Adam Harvey


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