Some Shirts Hide You From Cameras—But Will Anyone Wear Them?

from ars technica

Right now, you’re more than likely spending the vast majority of your time at home. Someday, however, we will all be able to leave the house once again and emerge, blinking, into society to work, travel, eat, play, and congregate in all of humanity’s many bustling crowds.

The world, when we eventually enter it again, is waiting for us with millions of digital eyes—cameras, everywhere, owned by governments and private entities alike. Pretty much every state out there has some entity collecting license plate data from millions of cars—parked or on the road—every day. Meanwhile all kinds of cameras—from police to airlines, retailers, and your neighbors’ doorbells—are watching you every time you step outside, and unscrupulous parties are offering facial recognition services with any footage they get their hands on.

In short, it’s not great out there if you’re a person who cares about privacy, and it’s likely to keep getting worse. In the long run, pressure on state and federal regulators to enact and enforce laws that can limit the collection and use of such data is likely to be the most efficient way to effect change. But in the shorter term, individuals have a conundrum before them: can you go out and exist in the world without being seen?

More here.

Posted in Ideas, Innovation, Privacy, Technology and tagged , , , , , .


  1. This is a tough article. To start I’m really disappointed I was hoping for the invisibility cloak from harry potter. The way this can go is interesting. This can go in two directions, stay lowkey for the people that want to stand out while hidden by being out of fashion, or some designer will get their hands on this idea and being to incorporate it into their designs. Personally, with the way fashion has been going, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see these crazy designs that confuse the prevalence systems blowing up and becoming a thing. Based on the article this is going to take some time until it’s reliable but it seems to forget that these service companies are going to try and fix up the programming and just like the iPhone every six months, getting a better camera. It’s funny to watch people try and outsmart the systems, its something ill agrees with not everyone should be watched by the government or corporate eyes. I mean people should be able to have a private life, in the end, this is just sticking it to the man, a rebellious attempt to stick it to the man. Oddly this is why I can see this fashion blowing up.
    I think streetwear brands like supreme would get hold of these ideas and make their clothing with this in mind. Supreme is a big brand in the world with resell values on a simple shirt with a box logo going close to 400 plus depending on the style of the box and when the shirt dropped. I think these streetwear brands will take this wild idea of being invisible and standing out to another level. Right now designers are trying to copy this streetwear style so if one of the bigger fish does it then so will the other fish to try and compete instead of trying to be original. On the other hand, this could very well not happen at all as people will think it’s a flop, including the designers of the brands. It’s funny how fashion works, it’s presenting oneself to the world a certain way, and the best way for this to blow up is if they find a way to make it “in style” and making it reliable. In the end, the best way to combat this invasion of privacy is going to the law, but we’ll see if this idea gets bit it could be implemented in military use and used against the government in terrorist attacks. We’ll see.

  2. Technology such as the “cloaks of invisibility” as described in the article are a double edge blade. They can be used for nefarious purposes, such as hiding from security systems in order to rob a person’s home or place of business, or they can be used for better uses, such as hiding from a police state’s surveillance system, or it could simple be used to regain one’s privacy in this modern age that has killed such a concept. Only time will tell which of these uses will become more prevalent. Regardless of how this technology will be used, it is important that it is being developed in the first place.
    In the previous post I made, I mentioned the “social credit system” that is being built in China and how the development of facial recognition system that can tell a person’s identity while they wear a mask will strengthen such a system. Given with development such as those, it is good that counter measures are being developed that allows people to have a chance to resist such technologies and the government and organizations that would use them. For without the existence of counter measures, those who use said facial recognition system will be able to kill the very notion of freedom in their countries. That is why we should encourage such technological developments as those mentioned in the article. For they will be some of the few tools that can help those who resist tyranny in the modern age keep up with the developments make by the tyrants they resist.
    With that said, I don’t see much of a use for the shirts that hides a person from cameras, in the United States, outside of trying to trying to regain your privacy and using it for criminal purposes. Not saying that such technology should be banned, but I think that they have more use for those that live in authoritarian countries. I personally I would buy them because I hate the notion of my privacy being violated by the multitude of cameras that exist in our society, but I don’t see why many other people would get unless they were concerned over the same issue. Maybe I’m wrong and many people will flock to store in order to obtain the shirts, all I know for sure, is that this technology has made the a little more freer and private for those of us that will use it.

  3. With as many robot apocalypse movies there is to watch the idea that Kate Cox brings up about systems being dumber than people actually does shock me. I guess I just relate technology and artificial intelligence to actual intelligence. To back this idea up she states, “when it comes to recognizing something as basic as a car, stop sign, or fellow human being—literally the kinds of items that babies and toddlers learn to identify before they can say the words—fooling cameras is in many ways easier than fooling people. We’re simply trained by broad experience to look at things differently than software is.” In other words, our feelings one-up technology’s intelligence.
    Now onto the topic of shirts hiding you from cameras, Kate mentions the idea of tricking and confusing the cameras to what they are looking at. “In short, they looked at how some of the algorithms that allow for the detection of people in images work, then subverted them basically by tricking the code into thinking it was looking at something else. It turns out, confounding software into not realizing what it’s looking at is a matter of fooling several different smaller systems at once.” Kate’s article also includes a picture of a man wearing some time of shirt that looks like a pixelated picture of some type of land which is deemed undetectable by the cameras. To me, this is very fascinating, but the shirt if just simply ugly and I would not want to spare my outfit for being undetectable. However, to each is own!
    At first, I also did not understand how a camera can get fooled by a shirt when the face and its features are still about. However, Kate answers and states, “Code does not “think” in terms of facial features, the way a human does, but it does look for and classify features in its own way. To foil it, the “cloaks” need to interfere with most or all of those priors.”
    This entire computer recognition thing is quite interesting in the beginning but shortly begins to just become a drag. I admire anyone who is passionate about these things and I wish for the patience they have!

  4. This article is about what I expected. In a time where privacy becomes harder and harder to obtain, it seems that we are now in a time where we need to dress hideously to disguise ourselves from facial recognition software. It makes sense as the cameras are looking for typical human behavior and most people make an effort to dress sensibly. While I love the idea of traveling to work or school looking like an absolute mad man, I do not see this catching on. People my age will gladly sacrifice their rights in order to wear a better outfit.
    I know it sounds ridiculous but truly I believe it. Frankly, I do not see the pros outweighing the cons here either. Sure, the cameras won’t recognize you as a person, but now you look like an absolute idiot. At this point in time surveillance is very intrusive, but the answer is not to become a social outcast and dress horribly. Its a similar concept to just never leaving the house and not talking to anyone. Its essentially social suicide to go outside wearing that trash. In the future, I either see laws restricting surveillance or a more, how do you say, practical solution to counteracting the facial recognition software.
    On a more serious note, people need to be able to look professional. So by calling this a “solution” its saying that dressing professionally is a trade off. I want to wear sweatpants everywhere as much as the next guy, but seriously there are times and places that I want to look good. More importantly no one wants to permanently look like a martian in public. Some discoveries are cool and useful, some are cool and not really useful, and some are just weird. This one is just weird.

  5. It is interesting to know that there are many other people who are as paranoid as I am about surveillance. Once self isolation is no longer required, we will be exposed once again to the various surveillance systems set up by various entities. And now it is scarier since the systems are able to recognize a person by only a portion of their face. The article was very interesting to me because it explains how, despite being very accurate, the algorithms used in face recognition systems can only identify so much as determinant factors for identification. The comparison made between these algorithms and the human brain helped me understand this better. Humans are more capable to identify the various appearances that a same object can take. Unless a change in appearance causes the esthetic or physical integrity of an object to mutate, humans are still very likely to recognize it. Algorithms, however, rely on data comparison, which is why the more information the system has, the more accurate it will be. An algorithm cannot predict the possible appearances that an object could take, which is why even small changes in appearance are able to fool them. What was very interesting to me as well is that the fashion industry is stepping in along with experts in surveillance systems to develop clothing capable of fooling the algorithms. I suppose that as this initiative becomes more mainstream, security entities will try to make their systems fool-proof which is definitely easier said than done. We stand on a time where a 100% accurate facial recognition system is impossible making them prone to being fooled anyways. Because of this, I will seriously consider buying one of those t-shirts.

  6. The article highlighted that “systems are dumber than people”. This made me think of the “Are you a robot?” prompts I see every time I use my computer. While AI and modern tech has certainly become quite brilliant, it still isn’t the human brain. So, don’t fear iRobot probably won’t be happening anytime in the near future. The idea that we could wear clothing to hide us from surveillance is intriguing. On one hand it gives privacy back to the people. However, anything good can be turned bad in the possession of the wrong hands. While surveillance and facial recognition is a great way to find criminals, this tech could allow them to hide again. Truly, this world is a game of back and forth – each innovation is having a counter innovation. Separately, camera recognition and this new material are great inventions, but together neither of them works. I wonder if this tech can come in any color or if it must have a certain pattern or fabric. If something like this was able to transcend into fashion it would definitely be picked up quickly. It’s something I could see celebrities endorsing because we all know how well they use their platforms. Nonetheless, I’m sure that if this technology was mass-produced surveillance would adapt and find a way to identify people anyway.

  7. So no Invisibility Cloak? Okay, back to the drawing board.

    Just kidding. In seriousness, this technology (cameras used for identification) is too new and has too many flaws to be used by anyone as a form of identifying, protecting, enforcing, or whatever reason it is used for other than to access your own phone. I mean come on, people are going to be arrested because they were identified by a camera that can get fooled by wearing certain clothes or having dark skin? Inconsistent and logically inconsiderate technology that is not up to par with the human eye, let alone the brain, should not be considered as reliable before we even get into the major privacy violations. It’s a shame that I would have to wear specific clothing or cover my face (unless I’m in China where their cameras can now identify despite medical masks… and they’ll see I’m 8 inches taller than everyone else… but let’s stay with America) in order to not be unknowingly identified by cameras that I do not know exist in a public setting. Worse would be in the case for those misidentified by cameras, especially since they tend to misidentify minorities. I wouldn’t want to be the police department to have a camera decide that an innocent black man shopping for his family’s groceries is a gang member for many reasons, but this could happen because of the implementing of these cameras.

  8. Facial recognition becomes more and more advanced and controversial with every article I read about it. The technology almost coincides with machine learning technology, which is what makes these so easy to trick, but also extremely good at recognizing faces. Many people are terrified of this tech, but this blog post shows that this technology is not without it’s flaws. It is scary to think that cameras with this capability are in ore places than you think, a common example is traffic cameras. But with simple patterns the algorithms can be tricked, hiding the persons face be confusing it with pattern it has been taught to not relate to human features. Because it is just a computer algorithm, it can be tricked in the same methodology of how it was taught. The interesting thing about the development of this “cloaking” technology is that it stands in a strange place when it comes to the demand for it. Where can this be used? People aren’t going to start wrapping their cars in patterned tape to make it undetectable by cameras. Shirts with patterns to distract these facial recognition programs are definitely not far off from being consistent and reliable, however I don’t see this becoming useful unless facial recognition was more widely used and also more reliable.
    Generally speaking, there should be more concise and protective rights to privacy in America, it is something we have always strove for but have forgotten in the digital age. Nowadays, the saying is privacy is dead, it has gone from being a concern to just being a fact of the matter that we no longer have or are even entitled to our online privacy. This goes hand in hand with facial recognition technology. Do we own the right to our likeness and personal features? You can’t change your face as easily as you can change your password, so it begs the question as to whether or not this technology is even truly ethical to use on unsuspecting people. If this technology becomes rampant in our society, you may expect to see many more people wearing makeup, or really funky shirts.

  9. When I saw the title of this article I wasn’t really sure what it was talking about in terms of “shirts that can hide your face from cameras” but as I read I started to notice the point the article was making that in 2020 when we are out almost always we have a camera on us which can really question how much privacy we have, so this article brings up how someone can be invisible to cameras by using clothing to trick recognizing software code, In a study at the University of Maryland students looked into how the algorithms work that allow for detection in images, with this information they found out how to trick the code into not being able to recognize someone based on what there wearing, the students found out by wearing a bright adversarial pattern on a sweater it rendered the wearer invisible to the software that was look at him, this was very interesting to me as it seemed like the first big step in creating clothing that can hide a persons identity when wearing it, at first I thought this could only be a good thing as I feel there is way to much camera surveillance today as almost everywhere you go from the food store to the movie theater we are being recorded, but I thought about it and really this could potentially result in being used for illegal things, as criminals could easily hide there identities from surveillance cameras that could easily be used to capture a fugitive, while this is still very early in development one day we could see people actually wearing some type of clothing that scrambles an algorithm. Another person who has created clothing that can scramble and fill up systems with junk data is Kate Bertash who has created a clothing line that is able to mess with automatic license plate readers by filling them with junk data, her clothing consists of images of license plates that are printed all over the piece of clothing, and her pieces actually work as the system ends up reading her clothes rather then a license plate on a car.

  10. This article did not paint the pretty picture of a post-pandemic world where people can go out and do what they want like I was expecting and somewhat wanted it to. Instead, it seems to say that staying inside is the only thing protecting our privacy as there are quite literally cameras everywhere. Now, as technology increases and these cameras that are everything able to recognize people’s faces, people are trying to use even more technology to figure out ways around this happening so that they can be “invisible”. While I thought that this would require something incredibly high tech, one way to avoid detection is to wear a shirt that can act as a “cloak” and confuse the system so that it cannot pick up on your face. Reading about this right now reminded me of another article I read recently about how the Chinese and Israeli government are using these facial recognition techniques in order to attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. This most definitely seems like a major invasion of privacy, but they are doing so with the mentality of using all means necessary to stop it. These countries are tracking people’s locations using facial recognition and their cell phones in an effort to log who might have been in contact with an infected individual to tell them they need to quarantine. While this makes sense, there is also a certain point where this is such an invasion of privacy that people will feel outraged at the government doing these things. In the United States, people would likely be outraged if the government was doing this to their knowledge. Knowing that this is becoming a growing concern around the world, it makes me wonder if people will start looking more into this “cloaking” technology in an effort to protect their privacy when walking down the street.

  11. This was a really fun article to read in the fact that it was very techy, yet understandable. As long as you took your time reading it, you could fully understand the topic that may seem daunting to try and learn about at first on how they could do such a thing as make a computer not even see you. This article has it completely right, this is something you can use Harry Potter to wrap your minds around at first in terms of what they call the invisibility cloak, because it is so cool. In a world where it has only seem to have been winning for those that keep putting up modes of getting rid of our privacy as a whole, it is good to see a win for the regular people that want to stop that from happening and this is the perfect solution. Although I would have on idea how to do it, they make it sound simple of just fooling the computer. The describe it as almost giving a sensory overload to the computer because it is taking I so much information at a time that it cannot accurately see what is going on. This is not the first time I have seen an idea like this. I have seen hats in the past that have boasted the same results for privacy in making it so that video cameras could not see your face with this hat on. I never looked too much further into it how it exactly did it, but maybe this article explained how it did. The main difference for me that I am seeing between the two is that a shirt is way more practical that a hat. I know it may sound stupid, but some people just cannot wear hats, me included. They do not fit right on certain shaped heads and people will not do it. Offering something like a shirt is something that everyone will wear because you have to wear one at all times anyway. You can only gain from buying clothing like this so that you are not being constantly monitored on camera. Although it may seem like a joke that this camera monitoring will live up to “Big Brother,” I would not discount that possibility and encourage companies to keep making things like this.

  12. The idea of becoming invisible is a dream super power for many people. The idea of drifting through life unseen, being able to escape from the public eye and judgement that may follow it. As cool or interesting this idea of an “invisible cloak” to avoid surveillance of the plentiful cameras throughout the nation or world, invokes more fearful thoughts than comforting ones in my mind. As I read through the article, I kept on pondering the inevitable. “What happens if this ‘cloak’ falls into the wrong hands?” This thought might be creeping into my brain because all of the uncertainty in the world and the feeling of need for these surveillance cameras in the first place. We felt insecure, afraid, and uncomfortable of what might be lurking in the shadows or in broad daylight even and created measures to ease that fear. Now, we feel insecure and afraid of the measures enacted to ease the prior fears and are in the process of creating items to become “invisible” to the prying cameras. The unknowing surveillance of citizens through the plentiful cameras is an invasion to privacy, but I think an invisibility cloak is an invasion of safety. If a criminal were to become in possession of such a cloak, the cameras that could potentially identify them and ensure the capture of a serial killer or kidnapper to be brought to justice and off the streets would be handcuffed essentially as they would become useless. Might as well take the cameras down then. I think anyone who feels the need or desire for an invisibility cloak is not a criminal per say, but has no care of the comforting sensation it provides for others in the pursuit of their own feelings of “being watched”.
    Instead of inventing an invisibility cloak, we should collectively work together to bring about change through other means. By uniting together, we could demand change through laws and policies regulating and limiting the surveillance of innocent civilians or more ingenious idea birthed by the collaboration of many minds. The focus on creating an invisibility cloak raises more red flags than it erases for me.

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