An engineer and privacy advocate has taken a critical part used in many surveillance cameras and used it to blind them.
Mac Pierce’s “Camera Shy Hoodie” is a DIY anti-surveillance hoodie with 12 high-powered infrared LEDs sewn near the hood. Using a switch sewn into the sleeve, the wearer can make the LEDs strobe, flooding any nearby surveillance cameras with infrared light and blinding them at night. Pierce’s hoodie is the latest in privacy wearables, part of a trend that includes anti-facial recognition makeup and ballcaps and garments that confuse automatic license plate readers and object recognition.
Because the Camera Shy Hoodie uses infrared light, the wearer and anyone nearby will not be able to tell that it’s on.
“Night vision security cameras are tuned to see infrared light at night,” Pierce told Motherboard. “So that way they can see in the dark. By shooting enough light back at them, it blows out the sensor and causes the cameras’ auto exposure to try to compensate. Losing definition of the view of the scene. And yeah, making everything inside it unrecognizable.”
Pierce said the hoodie cost about $200 to make and was assembled using mostly off-the-shelf parts. Pierce released all software and plans associated with making the hoodie using a Creative Commons license and open-sourced the code used to operate it.
“The one really key tricky component is the IR LED that I chose, which is a very high efficiency, high output LED that’s actually used in security cameras, as the infrared floodlight for these cameras so they can illuminate an area with light to see what’s going on inside that flooded area,” Pierce said.
Pierce previously created the “Opt-Out Cap,” a hat that is designed to render its wearer unrecognizable by facial recognition. “I hope the people who . . . [have] a good reason to, you know?” Pierce said. “I want them to be able to protest without repercussions. I think that’s the ideal use case for it.”
“Surveillance technology has gotten to such a point where it’s so powerful and so pervasive. And it’s only now that we’re realizing, ‘Maybe we don’t want this stuff to be as powerful as it is,’” Pierce said. “The reason I put this out there is that I want people to be able to see this project and think, ‘Oh, right, these technologies are not infallible.’ There are ways that we can push back against them. We don’t just have to accept the status quo.”