Adam Harvey’s Design Solutions To Increased Government Surveillance

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Adam Harvey is an award-winning designer and technologist whose work deals with the increasingly relevant topics of surveillance, computing identity and personal privacy. Harvey, whose projects combine fashion and product design, computing science and programming, takes an artist’s approach to problem-solving – identifying a problem, developing experiments and possible solutions, and learning any number of skills to fabricate and achieve a solution that calls into question the nature of the problem.

Harvey, whose company ahprojects is based in Brooklyn, New York explains,”I became interested in spoofing and camouflage when cameras metamorphosed from art making tools into enablers of surveillance societies. This happened gradually over the last decade starting with the Patriot Act in 2001. To me, this document marked the beginning of the end of photography as I knew it from art history books.

Stepping away from art photography and into projects like CV Dazzle (pictured above), Harvey collaborated with DIS Magazine for an article titled ‘How to Hide from Machines’. Combining computer programming techniques and first-hand knowledge of surveillance tactics, Harvey also used hair, makeup and accessory techniques from the fashion world to scramble facial recognition software programs. In his project statement, Harvey says, “CV Dazzle is a response. It is a form of expressive interference that combines highly stylized makeup and hair styling with face-detection thwarting designs. CV, or computer vision…As a camouflage, this facial markup works to protect against automated face detection and recognition systems by altering the contrast and spatial relationship of key facial features. The variations are limitless.

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Some projects are simple product design, such as the OFF Pocket, which blocks incoming and outgoing phone service, thus making the phone untrackable, and speaks to increasing government monitoring of our basic communication.

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Other projects, such as Camoflash, are product-design firmly planted in pop-culture obsession. Described as a “patent-pending anti-paparazzi fashion accessory…capable of thwarting attacks from flash cameras“, Camoflash’s intended purpose will almost certainly never be used by most, but the project continues to blend ideas of fashion, design and creative solutions to personal privacy.

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Harvey’s more recent projects, like Stealth Wear, expands upon these concepts and was a clear reaction against drone strikes and the ensuing media controversy on early 2013. “It’s a hot topic, not just for people who are into privacy. Drones have captured the imagination and kind of a fear factor of the country.” Decidedly more political than his previous collections (or fashion ethos in general), Harvey describes the goal of the collection in near-manifesto tones, “...Stealth Wear is a vision for fashion that addresses the rise of surveillance, the power of those who surveil, and the growing need to exert control over what we are slowly losing, our privacy.


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