Why protests are becoming increasingly faceless

" Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists are concerned about being identified by authorities and prosecuted. Since mass demonstrations kicked off in June, roughly 700 people have been arrested, many for unlawful assembly.

This weekend, demonstrators attempted to tear down or dismantle some of the city’s 50 newly-installed so-called “smart lamp posts” – which have cameras and sensors – in a protest against perceived government surveillance. The Hong Kong government said the lamp posts, which are intended to track data such as air quality and traffic flow, are not equipped with facial recognition software and “would not infringe upon personal privacy.”

But Hong Kong’s protesters aren’t the only ones worried about protecting their identities.

Activists, designers and artists around the world are inventing creative ways to avoid detection.

As state surveillance becomes more advanced – and widely used – wearable technology has been proposed as a way to thwart monitoring systems.

In the United States and the United Kingdom, authorities in some cities have started to use facial recognition to catch suspects, but have faced push back from critics who say the technology can be inaccurate, biased and in violation of citizens’ privacy rights. San Francisco and Oakland, California, and Somerville, Massachusetts have already prohibited the use of facial recognition on citizens.

“We’ve gotten to the point (in the US), where these technologies are rolled out around the country with no transparency, no guidelines, regulations, and very little public understanding of actually how the technologies work,” said city councilor Ben Ewen-Campen, who sponsored Somerville’s measure to outlaw facial-recognition technology."

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