Anti-surveillance mask (look for this to be an issue)

by on May 18, 2014 at 11:50 am in Law, Political Science, Television | Permalink

The 3D-printed resin mask, made from a 3D scan of Selvaggio’s face and manufactured by, renders his features and skin tone with surprising realism, though the eyes peeping out from the eye holes do lend a certain creepiness to the look.

…It turns out some states have anti-mask laws. And Selvaggio [the creator of these masks] — whose earlier project You Are Me let others use his social-media profiles — says he’s considered the possibility that anyone wearing his face in public could engage in illegal activity…That being said, I have come to the conclusion that it is worth the risk if it creates public discourse around surveillance practices and how it affects us all.”

The article is here, with excellent photos of the masks.

For the pointer I thank Vic Sarjoo.

1 prior_approval May 18, 2014 at 12:02 pm

So, no one actually needs to wonder just why the Commonwealth of Virginia just might have this as a statute, right? ‘It shall be unlawful for any person over sixteen years of age while wearing any mask, hood or other device whereby a substantial portion of the face is hidden or covered so as to conceal the identity of the wearer, to be or appear in any public place, or upon any private property in this Commonwealth without first having obtained from the owner or tenant thereof consent to do so in writing.’

Man, that must have taken the fun out of some people’s night time excursions in the Virginia countryside when it became legally enforceable – it isn’t as if those night riders had ever needed consent in writing beforehand to engage in their activities.

2 Willitts May 18, 2014 at 12:15 pm

There is also a federal law against this, but it involves conduct while masked.

Im afraid we are making dangerous tresspasses on liberty when the sole purpose of a law is to make the job of criminal investigators easier.

3 Rahul May 18, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Aren’t there tons of other regulations (not sure if I can call them laws)? e.g. Not being allowed to enter banks or ATMs wearing helmets or hoods? The long-standing (not anymore) ban on high grade encryption algorithms?

Or how about even the penalty for mere lying to a police officer (OTOH I think it’s perfectly legal for them to lie to you)? Or destroying material evidence?

Most of these statutes seem designed to make investigations easier. Just saying that this case doesn’t seem like a very novel trespass on liberty.

4 andrew' May 18, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Yes, there is almost zero benefit. Now there is enormus cost.

Ratios change over time.

5 kenwb May 18, 2014 at 5:39 pm

“Most of these statutes seem designed to make investigations easier.’

They intend to make “convictions” easier for non-existent crimes… in irrational hopes of deterring potential criminals. Much American law takes this unjust approach.

Politicians constantly criminalize harmless secondary behavior that is sometimes associated with actual criminal acts. Punish all innocents to maybe deter a few guilt prone. Invent secondary crimes out of thin air that are easier to detect/punish.

Wearing a mask or concealing your face should not itself be a crime under any circumstances. There is nothing inherently bad or criminal about it. A very small number people do commit actual crimes (robbery, etc.) while wearing masks– but the tangible crime is robbery not mask wearing. Punish the real crime not innocent peripheral behavior.

Gun control laws, all manner of professional licensing and regulatory laws, alcohol laws, etc. follow this mindless legal approach.

6 andrew' May 18, 2014 at 2:09 pm

The government can usually provide reasons for what it does. Sometimes after they lie to the voters about it.

BTW, how are we coming on a true thing Obama has said about the NSA?

7 Donald Pretari May 18, 2014 at 12:17 pm

“Selvaggio” means savage in Italian. And…and…it probably doesn’t mean anything.

8 Rahul May 18, 2014 at 12:27 pm

I was intrigued by this snippet from that article:

Chicago has over 25,000 cameras networked to a single facial recognition hub….

Who runs this? The city police? Just curious. Does it work well or too many false alarms?

9 andrew' May 18, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Works great. There are no murders there. Crime is also not.

10 andrew' May 18, 2014 at 2:14 pm

The supreme court has been mulling over, quite obtusely I might add, whether computers changes their past unprincipled balancing conclusions. Ask the chess people or jeopardy or any reasonable person.

11 Vernunft May 18, 2014 at 6:22 pm

I don’t see how the fact that computers can’t play chess matters, to be frank.

12 babar May 18, 2014 at 6:11 pm

it might be legal for a human-looking robot to drive a car before regular driverless cars are legal.

13 Jan May 18, 2014 at 7:00 pm

The market for that mask is Germany.

14 Rahul May 19, 2014 at 1:51 am


15 Jan May 19, 2014 at 8:58 am

I think they are probably the most privacy-obsessed society.

16 Rahul May 19, 2014 at 11:29 am

True. But wouldn’t that further reduce the need to wear a mask. They probably do less of these mass public spying things that bug people.

17 Jan May 19, 2014 at 1:09 pm

That’s a good point. I am aware of their banning Google streetview from many of its typical practices in the name of privacy. Beyond that, I don’t know what additional protections they have or whether their concerns extend to government surveillance.

18 Rahul May 19, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Some of the German privacy aspects are ironic. e.g. so far as I know they have a law on the books requiring every adult to have ID on his self. (I could be wrong)

Also, aren’t people supposed to report to the nearest city council within a certain time of moving to a new city? I always thought those points funny for a nation that values privacy.

19 Jan May 18, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Why don’t we all just start wearing surgical masks, like Japan?

20 Bill May 18, 2014 at 8:06 pm

So, we can escape facial recognition software only if we wear a mask.

Oh, the arms race. Make something (facial recognition software), then make an anti-something (a mask).

I think I’ll wear a David Koch mask and see if I can enter the Wisconsin Capital and meet with their governor, Scott Walker.

21 Dan May 18, 2014 at 11:49 pm

I think these are all anti KKK laws.

22 Benjamin Cole May 19, 2014 at 1:56 am

Fascinating topic. Does a citizen have the right to cover their face in public? Behind the wheel of a car?

I think facial recognition software can be foiled by the growing of beards and wearing of large sunglasses, low-baseball cap etc. Your wife might not like you wearing a beard, or growing one herself.

And it is not just facial recognition software anymore—soon, all the license plates in the USA will be fed into the NSA cloud, from plate readers everywhere. And that is the kind of data that is actually actionable and useful (as opposed to recording billions of phone calls in Arabic, and not having translators, for example).

The real scare behind this is the power of the state to destroy non-PC political movements and people. If Hoover had these tools, what would he do?

And destroying non-PC people can be done easily. Turning one faction against another with some planted information or e-mails. Every act of adultery exposed. Every snub highlighted. Photoshop someone’s husband into a motel room, etc.

The upside is, if law enforcement has any ability at all, we should be able to even further reduce crime rates.

23 Zach H May 19, 2014 at 7:31 am

A mask is overly obtrusive. Before masks become pervasive, expect to see simpler adjustments, like the makeup mentioned in the linked article, or many others.

Given the way fashion goes, I’ve been expecting makeup like this to become trendy in the next four or five years, even if it loses its efficacy to better algorithms.

24 Marian Kechlibar May 20, 2014 at 1:03 pm

I am not sure if this is relevant.

It is probably easier to identify an individual by gait (at least from the algorithmic POV), and gait is almost impossible to obfuscate.

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