I was clearing out an old email address a couple of years ago when I spotted a message from a woman I didn’t know. She had been talking to a man online and had become suspicious of his identity. When she did a search on his profile picture, my name came up. She sent me a link to a Google+ account that had my photo and somebody else’s name, but I couldn’t see much else. I had never been particularly strict with online privacy, so I thanked her and reported it to Google. It didn’t seem like a big deal.
Things got weirder when she invited me to join a Facebook group: 20 young women – who had all been talking online to a man called “Paul Green” – were trying to figure out his true identity. They were sharing his profile pictures and the photos he’d emailed them. They were all of me. He’d cropped my new baby niece out of a very recent photo. There was one of me from school, fooling around with a piano keyboard on my head; it was so old I’d forgotten it. It must have been from my deleted Myspace account.
He had talked to these women on teenage forums, dating sites, Facebook, Twitter, Google… and from multiple email addresses. Some had spoken to him on Skype – without video. One girl forwarded me email after email of their conversations. They had been talking for four years. They’d told each other, “I love you.” He said that – like me – he was 22. The young women ranged in age from mid-teens to early 20s. He’d talked of sending them gifts and persuaded some to send pictures back. One message read, “Thank you for those photos, my body shivered a little.” It was creepy.
He came across as intelligent. He liked poetry and literature, and spoke Spanish. He had gained their trust and some of them thought they were in a relationship with him. One said to me, “Oh, it was you we’ve been talking to.” But I had to say, “No. Not at all. These aren’t my interests. This is not me.”
I went to the police, but they weren’t interested. The law doesn’t cover you to protect your face…
A: As a working professional, I try to go on weekends when I have time. At most legal protests, I try not to wear masks. It’s about exercising our legal right of assembly and showing our support for this movement. Why should we hide our faces?
You don’t really know if a demonstration will ultimately be legal or illegal. It might start out as a legal assembly in a designated area, but then it spills onto the street because so many people are joining. If that crowd walks down the street and deviates in any way from the original route, it can technically be interpreted as an “unlawful assembly.”
The police are supposed to inform protesters when an assembly has been declared “unlawful.” However, protesters may hardly be aware when this happens—officers may put up a sign, in a place not within our eyesight.
If the police start shooting tear gas, you will know the demonstration is now considered illegal. This is when I put on a mask. The surgical mask I carry is not a chemical mask, so it’s not effective protection against the tear gas; but when police deem things an “unlawful assembly” and charge in, it’s better not to have your photo taken.
Many protesters are concerned about photos being taken, no matter if the assembly is legal or not, since China is renowned for using face recognition technology to monitor its people. A sense of “White Terror” is increasingly felt in Hong Kong, and we are quite worried that such images could be used against you later. Look at what is happening at Cathay Pacific and TVB—staff were laid off because they posted pro-protest messages on Facebook.
The contributions to this book explore a phenomenon that appears to be a contradiction in itself – we, the users of computers, can be tracked in digital space for all eternity. Although, on the one hand, one wants to be noticed and noticeable, on the other hand one does not necessarily want to be recognized at the first instance, being prey to an unfathomable public, or – even less so – to lose face.
Cameras and other technological products make for a better and safer living environment than ever before. Mega databanks and high-resolution cameras in the streets stock hundreds of exabytes a year. But who has access to this data? It is possible that it could have commercial use, hence not only retail companies but also the advertisement industry could be very interested in this data in the coming future. They would hope to gain these personal data and information as much as they can.
In the future, the advertisement could call your name when you walk along the streets. The companies would know your interests and may set different retail strategies for you. It could be convenient for customers, but personal thoughts and opinions should be kept private. This product protects you from this privacy violation.
The concept from Jing-cai Liu: Wearable face projector– A small beamer projects a different appearance on your face, giving you a completely new appearance.
The success of today’s booming biometrics industry resides in its promise to rapidly measure an objective, truthful, and core identity from the surface of a human body, often for a mixture of commercial, state, and military interests. Yet, feminist communications scholar Shoshana Amielle Magnet has described this neoliberal enterprise as producing “a cage of information,” a form of policing, surveillance, and structural violence that is ableist, classist, homophobic, racist, sexist, and transphobic.
Biometric machines often fail to recognize non-normative, minoritarian persons, which makes such people vulnerable to discrimination, violence, and criminalization: Asian women’s hands fail to be legible to fingerprint devices; eyes with cataracts hinder iris scans; dark skin continues to be undetectable; and non-normative formations of age, gender, and race frequently fail successful detection. These examples illustrate that the abstract, surface calculations biometrics performs on the body are gross, harmful reductions.
A visual motif in biometric facial recognition is the minimal, colorful diagrams that visualize over the face for authentication, verification, and tracking purposes. These diagrams are a kind of abstraction gone bad, a visualization of the reduction of the human to a standardized, ideological diagram. When these diagrams are extracted from the humans they cover over, they appear as harsh and sharp incongruous structures; they are, in fact, digital portraits of dehumanization.
Face Cages is a dramatization of the abstract violence of the biometric diagram. In this installation and performance work, four queer artists, including micha cárdenas, Elle Mehrmand, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, and Zach Blas, generate biometric diagrams of their faces, which are then fabricated as three-dimensional metal objects, evoking a material resonance with handcuffs, prison bars, and torture devices used during the Medieval period and slavery in the United States. The metal face cages are then worn in endurance performances for video. Face Cages is presented as an installation that features the four performance videos and four metal face cages.
The computational biometric diagram, a supposedly perfect measuring and accounting of the face, once materialized as a physical object, transforms into a cage that does not easily fit the human head, that is extremely painful to wear. These cages exaggerate and perform the irreconcilability of the biometric diagram with the materiality of the human face itself–and the violence that occurs when the two are forced to coincide.