Privacy and its relationship to technology will continue to be a problem that isn't going away any time soon. If it's not the NSA spying on our online actions, it's hackers raiding celebrity's iCloud accounts and the subsequent fallout that remind us just how vulnerable we all are to these type of invasive data raids. A variety of artists have called attention to privacy invasion—from big data art projects to Trevor Paglen's photos of "invisible" government surveillance agencies—and recently the topic has even bled into the fashion world.
Artist Adam Harvey, for example, has been exploring this hybrid of fashion and anti-surveillance in projects like his Stealth Wear, and Nick Briz even developed specialty masks in a multi-layered project that explored facial recognition technology. More recently, Zoltan Csaki's company The Affair—which creates clothing inspired by classic novels—launched a Kickstarter for their1984 fashion collection. As well as taking its name from George Orwell's dystopian classic and inspiration from the workwear uniforms in the novel, the collection also features the UnPocket: a detachable pocket made from stealth technology which renders your smartphone invisible to Big Brother.
The pockets look simple enough from the outside and come in red, black, or navy blue. But inside it has a silvery material—a police-grade, metal-infused fabric—which cloaks the device from the prying eyes of state and corporations. "When closed, The UnPocket™ creates a Faraday cage that blocks all radio signals in and out," explains Csaki. "It’s the same tech the police use to prevent suspects from remotely wiping digital evidence. But it also works in reverse to protect you from location tracking by making it impossible for your phone to connect to the surveillance grid (cell, WiFi, GPS)."
Though switching your phone off and taking out the battery could feasibly have the same effect, Csaki explains that it wouldn't, especially since most smartphones don't have a removable battery. "It also blocks RFID (the tech behind your ePassport and contactless bankcards) to make you unhackable and protect you from wireless identity theft, which makes it ideal for traveling," Csaki adds.
The UnPocket integrated with the 1984 collection
So is carrying around something like this an act of protest or just a fashion statement? "Both," says Csaki. "UnPocket™ glitches the government’s agenda for social control, and the chunky oversize eyelets that hold it to the clothes make a visible style statement. UnPocket™ is for the average man or woman incensed at the silent march towards a police-state, but without having to look like Ed Snowden (who we love, but sh*t does the man need a wardrobe upgrade!)."
Privacy-enabling phone cases are a product that both Adam Harvey with his OFF Pocket and Aram Bartholl with his Killyourphone.com workshop have explored. At the same time, these designs have yet to hit the mainstream fashion houses. Maybe that's just a question of time—and demand. "I think he’d [Adam Harvey] agree that stealth tech is conceptually at odds with mainstream trend-driven fashion which is all about peacocking," Csaki notes. "But at the end of the day, fashion has always been about choice, and I do think that as the debate continues and awareness grows, more and more people will want to reclaim privacy and become invisible to Big Brother."
For more on the '1984' fashion line and the UnPocket, visit The Affair's Kickstarter page.