There's this really funny scene in Infinite Jest (yup, I'm that guy) where David Foster Wallace imagines a future where video phone calls make people so self-conscious and insecure that they begin wearing masks with other peoples' faces on them to assure themselves. While the book was written in 1996, before the public was aware of the boundaries crossed by surveillance groups like the NSA and facial recognition software was omnipresent, I see kindred psychological spirits in Wallace's prediction, and a recent anti-surveillance project by artist Leo Selvaggio.
Selvaggio is running an Indiegogo campaign to fund a service called URME Surveillance, where he will send people a full prosthetic mask and paper mask that mimics his own face. As a result, facial-recognition software and video surveillance will identify him, Selvaggio, as the person in focus. "When you wear these devices, the cameras will track me instead of you," writes the artist. "Your actions in public space will be attributed as mine because it will be me the cameras see."
The masks are made through the website www.thatsmyface.com, so they sport photo-realistic and 3D-printed hard resin prosethetics. According to Selvaggio, "most people whon't look at you twice on the stret, and is seamless to most security cameras."
On top of the masks, the URME project hopes to publish a series of crowd-sourced short interviews, made from people donating their opinions of surveillance. The goal is "an instigation towards public discourse and a platform for community development through our common concern over surveillance."
We've seen make-up arrangements that shroud wearers from facial-regonition software, but masks are definitely a whole step up. Even if we're comfortable FaceTiming and videochatting without the need of the masks Wallace imagined, maybe we'll beginning seeing more Selvaggios around town in this ever-growing surveillance society.