Antisurveillance clothes foil cameras by making you look like a car
The garments introduced at DefCon are meant to confuse systems that track civilians. Talk about a statement piece.
Leslie KatzFormer Culture Editor
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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.
The Adversarial Fashion garments, she said, highlight the need to make computer-controlled surveillance less invasive and harder to use without human oversight.
"A person walking along the sidewalk or in a crosswalk is often close enough, as the readers take in a pretty large visual field, and have ... problems with specificity." The line is conceptual, she said, "but I worked pretty hard to make sure that it can work on the street in daylight."
The collection includes shirts, hoodies, jackets, dresses and skirts covered in modified license plate images and other circuitry patterns. Some of the garb features wording from the Fourth Amendment in bold yellow letters written over separate license plates made to look like the kind you see on vintage California cars: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
The garments range in price from $25 (about £21, AU$37) for a crop top to $50 (about £41, AU$74) for a unisex bomber jacket. When picking a size, you'll need to consider not only fit, but maximum readability.
"For the pattern to have a maximum effect, it's ideal for the fabric to hang straight so that the text is not excessively warped," all product descriptions read. "For this reason, you may want to consider sizing up if you intend for it to read in to ALPRs effectively."
Rose, who's organized civic hackathons across the US, isn't the first designer to come up with wearables meant to flip off surveillance cameras.
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
. 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.
The Adversarial Fashion website also includes DIY resources such as APIs and image-editing tools for those interested in designing their own anti-surveillance fashion. Rose says there's never been a better time to design such garb.
"I can prototype single pieces in a way I couldn't afford to even a few years ago," she says, "and have designs made to order, reducing the price and improving the accessibility of an experimental design."