5 Ways People Try To Fool Surveillance That Look Ridiculous
Look, I get it. No one likes to be spied on, whether it's by a nosy neighbor or The Man. That's why I'm writing this column from a mud pit in , and why I habitually pelt everyone who tries to approach me with hungry ferrets. It's just that ... Come on. People are actually trying to avert attention with this bullshit?
The HushMe Muzzle
First of all, look at this thing:
Has someone been naughty? Does someone need to be punished? Nah, nothing that interesting. The guy's just using a muzzle that allows him to have stealthy phone conversations. The $200 work-in-progress product is called HushMe, and it's supposed to help you mask your phone conversations by ... well, literally covering the part of you that makes conversation, locking you inside a vaguely S&M-ish muffler facemask equipped with a microphone. According to the rules of the screaming chaos dimension the inventors of this thing clearly hail from, this is preferable to, say, picking up your phone (I hear they're portable these days) and taking a couple steps in the least eavesdropper-y direction.
A key component of HushMe's operation is the "masking noise" the gadget feeds to its surroundings, thus covering the dulcet tones of your muffled, sweaty conversation. Here are some of the fine, fine sound options the gadget offers to blast towards your fellow man as you discuss whatever people who still make phone calls talk about these days (cheese? John Cheese?):
Monkey sounds? Minion sounds?
Don't take my cynical approach to mean that I believe that the product doesn't work. On the contrary -- I believe that the technical concept is solid, and that it certainly drowns out your important conversations from unwanted eavesdroppers. It's just that the HushMe attempts to solve a problem that not a single person on the planet has ever had since cell phones were invented and people became free to have their phone calls wherever the hell they like.
Then again, if you intend to deal with your phone security issues with a half-face mask that you mumble in while its exterior speakers blast out fucking Minion noises at the outside world, privacy is going to happen naturally, as everyone around you takes several cautious steps away from you ... followed by outright sprinting and screaming.
"Drone-Proof" Stealth Wear
Ah, drone attacks! How come no one's talking about those anymore? What are those things up to these days, anyway? Doing a sad, mechanical "dogs playing poker" impression in a hangar somewhere?
Ha, wrong! Drones are actively spying you, specifically, and the only hope you have is armor yourself against them. With this.
Wow, someone's gone all out with Photoshop filters.
That's a drone-proof burqa, the very concept of which is implying all sorts of horseshittery. This thing's obviously not meant to shield you from the shooty-missile-y aspects of military drones, but claims to do a bang-up job in covering you from the heat etc. cameras of their surveillance systems. So, you know. Might be handy for those times your dipshit neighbor is attempting to hover his camera-equipped helicopter drone in front of your crotch? The clothing line also has other items, like a hijab-style scarf:
So ... it's just the same exact photo that someone ran through a couple of stock Photoshop filters? Wait, what the ever-loving turdmunchkin is this supposed to be?
The items of the collection are "fabricated with silver-plated fabric that reflects thermal radiation, enabling the wearer to avert overhead thermal surveillance," though apparently, your abs can go hang when it comes to protection. Still, I'm sure the dozens of NSA drones no doubt spying on you right this moment will be irrevocably bamboozled by the way you suddenly turn into the Headless Horseman in their cameras.
Anti-Facial Recognition Glasses
To most of us, the facial recognition software social media sites and search engines are tinkering with these days is mostly annoying, and maybe slightly worrisome. To the National Institute of Infomatics in Japan (holy shit, that would make a great anime title), it's a problem that needs to be solved. So a couple of professors came up with a pair of glasses that are specifically designed to confuse the shit out of each and every algorithm that attempts to auto-tag you to your least favorite friends' Facebook pictures.
According to their inventors, the goal of the glasses is to "protect photographed subjects from the invasion of privacy caused by photographs taken in secret and unintentional capture in camera images." And while that's fine and all, the technology presents certain ... difficulties to other aspects of keeping a low profile:
Though everyone is guaranteed to at least pretend they don't recognize you.
Hahahahaha! That's like one of those light-equipped space helmets every sci-fi movie is hell-bent on using, only instead of a cool space face plate, you're wearing the most sex-repelling thing the eyewear industry has managed to come up with since they invented Oakley Douches.
There are a gazillion ways to keep your face obscured from cameras (and, by proxy, their recognition software). Like ... Wear a hoodie? Use a Doctor Who-length scarf to obscure your features? Acquire a particularly large fake mustache? Hell, if you really have to, you can even buy one of those fucking Guy Fawkes masks. You'll notice that none of those things require you to wear a dumbass contraption that lights your face up like a Christmas tree.
Or hey, here's an idea: Don't fucking worry about it, because when is the last time you were the victim of a facial recognition scam?
On a positive note, if you wear a pair of these, you're pretty much guaranteed to be a hit at the local rave. They still do those, right?
A $16,666 "Unhackable" Cell Phone
When it comes to threats to your privacy, it's hard to imagine a bigger one than your cell phone. Even if you manage to resist broadcasting yourself to the world via a torrent of selfies and social media posts, it can be tracked, hacked, and probably a whole lot of other things ending in "acked" that a humble dick joke writer can't even hope to comprehend. So it makes perfect sense that there's a market for an ultra-secure cell phone. I bet the "security-conscious and with plenty of disposable income" consumer segment would start throwing money at their screen at the merest mention of one. Unfortunately, the Solarin smartphone probably isn't what they're imagining it to be.
The metaphysical concept of sleekness took one look at this thing and never stopped vomiting.
I'm feeling generous, so let's take a look at the phone's positives first. It is one of the most up-to-date things on the market as security patches go, and features an excellent camera, long-lasting battery and a special "security switch" that puts it in a hyper-secure mode that shuts down the majority of its functions and only allows outgoing voice calls and securely encrypted messaging. It's also apparently drawn interest from folks like Tom Hardy and Leo DiCaprio. So that's pretty cool.
However, Vlad Savov, the tech reviewer for The Verge, has pointed out ... another side of the phone. First of all, the Solarin costs $16,666. That's crazy money for a phone. If you have that sort of cash to spare for privacy matters alone, you're probably better off just hiring a bunch of burly men to punch everyone who even looks like they might hack your shit, because the Solarin is decidedly not the technological marvel the price tag insinuates.
The phone's processor is a Snapdragon 810, which is most notorious for the way Samsung dropped it from its phones because of overheating issues. Yeah, the phone manufacturer that had no problem peddling exploding phones deemed this processor too unsafe to use. The software is a budget version of Android 5.1, and that classy camera is absurdly slow. That last thing might be just a minor annoyance, if it wasn't for the fact that as the tectonic-speed camera operates, you're stuck holding one of the clumsiest, heaviest phones on the market. The Solarin is extremely fat, and weighs over half a pound, making it extremely unwieldy and unpleasant to use. And, according to the reviewer, it doesn't even really help you with the privacy issues any more than an average phone with proper security apps unless you use that switch which, again, pretty much just turns the Solarin into the world's most expensive Nokia 3310.
Still, at least it's got one of those dope-ass fingerprint unlocking systems. Wait, hold on. Aren't fingerprints pretty much the biggest vulnerability for smartphones? Hahaha, they are! That's it, folks -- we've reached the rock bottom. There's no way anything can be dumber than a hyper-high-end security phone that stumbles at the first privacy hurdle, right?
Under(A)Ware Privacy Underwear
To be fair, technically underwear is a privacy product.
I'll, uh, I'll just quote the Under(A)Ware privacy underwear webpage: "In the near future sentient shopping center, item-level tagging and discrete data-sniffing will become both common corporate culture and a popular criminal activity. This popular product line consists of his and hers underwear designed to sense hidden Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Tag readers and alert the wearer to their presence by activating small vibrators sewn into bras and boxer shorts in strategic locations."
Pictured: Strategic locations.
Yes, this is the vision of the future of anti-surveillance: We'll charge at our corporate spies tits- and/or dick-first, which will have the added bonus of making us either squirm uncomfortably or squirm extremely comfortably, depending on the strength of the vibrators. This is not exactly a new invention, per se. You can probably buy all sorts of underwear equipped with vibrators that react to things at your nearest sex shop right now. But while I can sort of get behind a buzzer that alerts you to undue surveillance -- like, maybe a wrist watch or something -- applying said buzzers directly to your naughty bits probably just causes a Pavlovian reaction where, after a week of wearing this thing, you instinctively learn to seek out as much RFID surveillance as humanly possible.
"Could ... could you spy me a little more to the left, please?"
Perhaps fortunately, the Under(A)Ware isn't a product that you can purchase right now. However, the website has all sorts of development pictures and concept sketches available, so with a little bit of dedication and engineering know-how, you can probably equip all your underwear with tiny sex toys by the end of the week. When the police inevitably turn up to to arrest you for public indecency, just remember to screech that you're only wearing a pantsful of vibrators because criminals are attempting to spy on your crotch. They'll love that.
Pauli Poisuo is a Cracked columnist and freelance editor. Here he is on Facebook and Twitter.
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