‘Stealth wear’ makes you undetectable

The term ” stealth wear” sounded cool when I first heard it early this year. It refers to clothing and accessories designed to protect the wearer from detection and surveillance. Fast-forward a few months. Flying surveillance cameras (drones) are increasingly in the news. Wearable devices like Google Glass — which take photos and videos and upload them to the net— are adding to the fervor. There’s also Ed Snowden’s disclosures about the US government‘s clandestine snooping programme.


It’s enough to make countersurveillance fashion timely and pertinent. Adam Harvey, an artist and design professor at the School of Visual Arts, said, “The science-fiction part has become a reality and there’s a growing need for products that offer privacy.” Harvey exhibited a number of his stealth-wear designs in London and prototypes in an art show this year. His work includes a series of hoodies and cloaks that use reflective, metallic fabric that reduces a person’s thermal footprint. This limits one’s visibility to aerial surveillance vehicles employing heat-imaging cameras to track people on the ground.

In addition, he also developed a purse with extra-bright LEDs that can be activated when someone is taking unwanted pictures; the effect is to reduce an intrusive photograph to a washed-out blur. The National Institute of Informatics in Japan has developed a visor outfitted with LEDs whose light isn’t visible to the wearer — but that would blind camera sensors and blur the details of a wearer’s nose and eyes more effectively than a pair of sunglasses.

And Todd Blatt, a mechanical engineer in New York, is working on a lens-cap accessory for people who don’t want to be recorded while talking with someone who is wearing Google Glass. Instead of asking that the computer glasses be removed entirely, they could instead hand the wearer the lens covering. Presto. No taping or photographing would occur during the conversation. These items have not yet been tested by intelligence firms or security experts. Most are still concepts, not ready for production.

But Harvey said he hoped that awareness of his designs might “empower you to control your identity”.