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Hidden in plain sight

Conceptual and Regulatory Challenges

Michael Nagenborg

A recent off-spring of ‘privacy by design’ are artefacts and gadgets that aim to protect the privacy of the users. An example is the work of Adam Harvey, who ‘explores how fashion can be used as camouflage from face-detection technology’ (http://cvdazzle.com/). In this contribution, the author explores the differences using camouflage and masks as two distinctive tactics, which aim to restore aspects of anonymity provided by becoming part of the crowd. Current technological developments on biometrics-from-a-distance (e.g. face recognition system) aim to re-identify the single individual and therefore undermine an important aspect of urban anonymity, which has traditionally been perceived as a condition of the liberal urban life-style. While Adam Harvey’s works are inspired by World War I naval camouflage design, his works lean towards the use of the mask in revolutionary movements such as the Zapatistas or by members of Anonymous. Such Masks need be considered as ‘inter-faces’ in the literal meaning of the word, which, in contrast to the idea of camouflage, allow the users to be visible and present, while protecting the identity of the user.