your digital trace

“We believe that fighting crime should be easy: we provide effective, easy-to-use offensive technology to the worldwide law enforcement and intelligence communities.”

THIS IS NOT A BAD JOKE! Actually this is a serious advertisement from the Italian surveillance company HackingTeam targeting government agencies to become new clients. Their big-brother items are consumed among others by agencies from Spain, Italy, Uganda but also corporate businesses like Deutsche Bank in Germany. For the full list of customers, who brought the company more than 40 million Euro revenues, click here. By the way, this data was disclosed in a breach in 2015when the HackingTeam was hacked. 

There is no doubt that privacy matters, if you ever have done something because no one was watching you – be it only picking your nose. Still most of us catch ourselves being internally divided between control, safety, convenience and personal freedom that goes hand in hand with the right to anonymity. We all worry about being spied on but effectively we are not doing anything – it is just too overwhelming. Where should we start and how could we really build walls to protect our privacy?

“Your face is always ON.”

One of our most intimate and private body parts is our face. It identifies us undoubtedly and exposes our emotions. For mass surveillance, facial detection, recognition and subsequent interpretation are extremely valuable. Besides the apocalyptic scenario of a totalitarian state controlling its citizens, this data can also be plainly of great value for marketing and be used as new fuel for consumerism. The artist, or better described as “creative technologist”, Adam Harvey developed anti-surveillance cloths to empower citizens – technology for the people who are captured by all the technology around them. In his project “CV Dazzle” he tested dazzle paint and which patterns obscure faces in order not to be recognised by any machine.

“CV Dazzle works by altering the expected dark and light areas of a face (or object) according to the vulnerabilities of a specific computer vision algorithm.”

Some styles also involve pretty crazy hairstyles to alienate one’s personality! If you are interested, check them out on his homepage. Adam Harvey has much more in store than just some make-up. In his Privacy Gift Shop you can get an OFF pocket, which shields your phone from any wireless signal or stealth wear protecting you from being recognised by drones. His art campaigns are an excellent example of raising awareness of the emerging (or better called current-and-way-to-long-ignored) issue of large data collection. It discusses and confronts us with inevitable questions: How do we as individuals protect ourselves from surveillance to ensure our freedom? Can we actually?

If you don’t feel like putting on heavy camouflage everyday, then you should check out the following TED talks for more society-proof tricks to keep your privacy private and to earn what can be actually hacked.

#1 Certainty does not exist – all your devices can be hacked

The guarantee that your tech gadget cannot be conquered by any digital pirate is rubbish! In a TED talk Avi Rubin clearly shows that not only smart phones and laptops are in danger but also medical devices!



#2 Encrypt your messages!

With the dawn of computerisation, the surveillance technique of wiretapping experienced a renaissance – but how can we escape the surveillance machinery?

#3 Consider the dark side!

Never heard of the darknet? Well, it is time to continue reading here…


Image header by Alina Nikolaou

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About Lisa Landskron

Being a scientist in the field of molecular biology & leading the TEDxVienna Blogger team, Lisa loves to do biochemical as well as digital experiments to create and spread ideas.

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