Fashion and surveillance

…so I walk into the supermarket, mask covering my face*, when I got a message. Looking down to check, I notice my phone doesn’t recognize me. It has this fancy thing called the Face ID – which has a problem with the mask. Or scarf or anything you attempt to cover your mouth and nose with.

And then I realize that this will affect our future in more than one way.

First off, we will get used to covering our faces – similarly to some women in some parts of the Muslim culture. When that happens, it will begin to matter how that cover looks like. There will be a fashion of face masks, and people, women and men alike, will seriously consider which one of the (washable) masks go well with the day’s outfit. (Click here for Prada’s take, for example.)

My son also made a ‘design mask’ this morning. But this post features a quick drawing by my daughter.

Second, this will change our surveillance culture. Face recognition technology, recently installed at oh so many places, goes out – or gets sophisticated, working from just the eyes and maybe the mask style pattern.

In turn, some of the new surveillance techniques will stay with us. I’m talking about the technology that tracks our encounters and movement, so that it can track back to the source if we get infected with something. One such app in the making is a Hungarian pro bono project (see here: https://www.translationtribulations.com/2020/03/covid-19-contact-tracking-app.html).

Let’s get a bit more serious. Surveillance always collects massive amounts of data (this one can follow me and list everyone I met or got close to in the last 2-4 weeks), and there is always a very real danger that these data get into the wrong hands, and allow the already very powerful to accumulate even more power. For my part, I want to keep as much of my previous freedom as possible, and I also don’t want to be watched more than necessary to protect my fellow citizens. I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling that it will be a lot of work (not that the fight against the Corona isn’t).

* I’m acting as if I were infected, and try to protect others. Caution, though: don’t buy up medical masks because chances are that healthcare workers also run low on them. For a quick visit to the grocery store, your scarf will do.

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