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Stealth Wear: The latest in countersurveillance fashions … for that elusive style
If you’ve ever wanted to evade overhead surveillance drones — and, of course, look stylish while doing so — then Adam Harvey has you covered.
A New York-based artist who first generated headlines by creating an anti-paparazzi handbag while in graduate school, Mr. Harvey has released a collection of garments and accessories he calls “Stealth Wear,” including an “anti-drone” hoodie that renders wearers less visible to infrared imaging cameras.
The idea behind the project? In part, it’s an artistic statement on the increasing prevalence of high-tech, military-style surveillance in everyday life; in part, it’s a practical acknowledgment that fashion eventually may reflect that prevalence, perhaps out of sheer necessity.
London reportedly has one security camera for every 14 residents. American police are experimenting with drones.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a civil liberties group, recently obtained FBI documents showing that the agency has been using a controversial portable cellphone tracking device called “Stingray” that collects data not only from the phones of targeted individuals but also from other devices in the surrounding area.
“The concept is that we are in an era where a lot of military technology is coming home,” Mr. Harvey said. “There’s not only a need for this kind of garment on a battlefield, but also domestically. When those technologies trickle to the mainstream, how do we adapt to them? Are they used against us, or used in a way that helps us?
“I try to imagine a future where countersurveillance isn’t a fringe activity, where people see the practical benefits of dressing in line with our current environment. An environment where you are being surveilled a lot.”
Surveillance and its discontents are a recurring theme in Mr. Harvey’s work, which blends cultural commentary and useable, real-world gear.
Two years ago, Mr. Harvey unveiled “CV Dazzle,” a project using wigs, makeup, black-and-white triangles taped to one’s cheekbones and other simple techniques designed to foil the facial recognition software used by airport security cameras and social networking websites alike.
As a student in New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, he created “Camoflash,” a snapshot-thwarting purse equipped with a photocell that detects surrounding camera flashes and three small LED lights that flash in response, washing out unwanted photographs.
“Stealth Wear was actually a very emergent concept, developed out of research for previous projects,” Mr. Harvey said. “I was following trends in surveillance, and I started to realize that people were now concerning themselves with drones and the repercussions of drone surveillance.”
In 2011, Mr. Harvey was working on a mobile phone sleeve that blocks all incoming and outgoing electromagnetic signals when he realized the metallic fabric he was using had heat-reflecting properties.
Around the same time, an overseas war correspondent told him that Taliban fighters were using “space blankets” — Mylar blankets originally invented by NASA that trap heat and often are included in first aid and survival kits — to hide from drones.
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About the Author
Patrick Hruby is an award-winning journalist who holds degrees from Georgetown and Northwestern. He also contributes to ESPN.com and The Atlantic Online, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. Follow him on Twitter (@patrick_hruby) and contact him at PatrickHruby.net.
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