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Fooling the Cameras.

With a project called URME--pronounced "you're me"--the Chicago artist Leo Selvaggio plans to confound the world's surveillance systems by distributing lifelike masks of his own face. Selvaggio wants to turn his countenance, he says, into "a kind of a Guy Fawkes mask that could pass for an actual person," fooling facial recognition software into thinking that everyone wearing Selvaggio's features is in fact Selvaggio.

URME is offering three products, according to a deadpan Indiegogo video asking people to fund the artist's efforts. The first, based on a detailed 3D rendering of his head, is "a wearable, photorealistic prosthetic." The second, for privacy seekers on a budget, is a less convincing paper mask. And the third will facially encrypt your digital videos, in case you'd like to have Selvaggio's face speaking on YouTube instead of your own.

If the onrushing dystopia of universal surveillance frightens you, here's your chance to fight back with another science-fiction scenario--the one where we merge into a single collective identity. Or rather, one that preserves all our individual identities by concealing them behind the same mask.

Books Editor Jesse Walker ( is the author of The United States of Paranoia (HarperCollins).

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Title Annotation:Artifact; collective-identity-concealing face masks
Author:Walker, Jesse
Article Type:Brief article
Date:Aug 1, 2014
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