Anti-Surveillance Artist Wants You To Wear His Face

May 7, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

Artist Leo Selvaggio is attempting a crowd sourced anti-surveillance solution and using himself as a martyr for the cause. URME (pronounced phonetically) will allow its users to “become” Selvaggio to facial recognition software. His technique is simple: paper or 3D-printed (if you’re fancy) prosthetic masks of his face will trick cameras into recognizing him instead of you.

“When you wear these devices the cameras will track me instead of you and your actions in public space will be attributed as mine because it will be me the cameras see,” Selvaggio explains on the IndieGoGo campaign for the project. He considers this so important for public safety and privacy that he plans on giving the masks away at cost, without making a profit. Instead, you can donate to his IndieGogo and get all kinds of fun anti-surveillance swag like a “Don’t Surveille Me, Bro” necklace or a digital encryptor that will replace Selvaggio’s face with others in your online videos.

The idea is reminiscent of both masking culture and a satirical aside in Infinite Jest in which David Foster Wallace describes a televisual communication future where people are so concerned about their looks that they don entire body masks to conceal their true appearance, until this falsity becomes the norm. This may not be a viable fix for the larger problem of surveillance culture, but Selvaggio’s idea is intriguing, both in its obviousness and creepiness by extreme example, highlighting our too-public living. (Hat tip/gif: Prosthetic Knowlege)