Fooling the Cameras

Leo Selvaggio plans to confound the world's surveillance systems by distributing lifelike masks of his own face.



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.

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  1. He’s gotta lose that wimpy stache first

  2. I keep running into articles either freaking out about “Facial Recognition” or lauding it. How good is it really? I read somewhere that 20% false positives is considered good. Is that true, or internet bull?

    The thing is, I keep running into the same faces, more or less, over and over. Sure, the actual people are different, but it seems to me that, broadly speaking, the same facial features arrange themselves in similar patterns an awful lot. Sure, maybe in the hands of an expert operator, facial recognition software could perform as advertised. How about in the hands of a hung-over GS7 clerk with credit card worries and a shrew for a wife?

    It this really a worry, or are we freaking out over something that the human brain is just orders of magnitude better than computers are going to be in my lifetime?

    1. I read something here that stated that a 20% failure rate was within the officially acceptable parameters in.. LA, was it? Can’t recall exactly. Mix that failure rate with 2AM no-knock raids and we could be in for some real fun just down the road. The substitution of technology for due diligence is leaving messes all over the place. Widespread acceptance of facial recognition software as a policing tool will be no different.

      1. Yes, it’s not the technology that’s evil, it is how that technology is used that makes it good or bad.

  3. Nothing a little law outlawing public wearing of masks can’t fix. Next…

    1. That’s actually on the books in Tampa. Of course it’s just another selective tool used for “community policing” of certain communities.

      Although I bet it will be a matter of time before a Guy Fawkes mask will put you on a double secret terror watch list.

  4. Well, we’ll just make it illegal to wear masks.

    /the government industrial complex

    1. Check your local laws. Some jurisdictions already have this “feature.”

      1. I’ve heard that is the case. All that really means is no one has spent the money yet to get such an obviously unconstitutional law thrown out.

      2. Always love the one about no ski masks. Ever been in central Maine in late January?

        1. I know what minus 25 F with the sun out feels like. A real corker.

    2. I read in People Magazine that minarchists are part of the government industrial complex.

  5. Progressives have way too much time on their hands.

    Lana Del Rey: Why a Death-Obsessed Pop Siren Is Perfect for Late-Stage Capitalist America


    Lana Del Rey is pushing the envelope, and here’s her message, delivered with a languid pout: 21st-century America is a rotting corpse, deadlocked culturally, economically, and politically. Since there’s nothing we can do about it, let’s enjoy ourselves as the body-politic disintegrates, perhaps by savoring some toothsome bites of the past: candy-colored Super 8 films, juicy jazz tunes and clips of sultry screen sirens. The future is a retrospective.

    All of this echoes the ancient danse macabre, the dance of death, the motif that sprang out of the medieval horrors of war and the plague. It’s a plea for fevered amusement while you’ve still got time.

    I feel like the fact that young people have enough time to write articles about Lana Del Rey pretty much proves that 2014 America has very little in common with medieval plagues.


      For millennials, the desire to reject an inhumane future in favor of a sensual plunge into undifferentiated nature is mirrored in Del Rey’s videos, where she is often submerged in water, as if suspended in Earth’s amniotic fluid. The world can be saved only when life returns to its primal source.

      This potent combination of women, sex and death is going to be one of the calling cards of late-stage capitalism. We are experiencing fearsome global dislocations and distorted social and economic systems that are killing our life-affirming instincts. The death drive is perennial, but when a society seems to hover on the eve of destruction, these Eves of the Apocalypse ? suicidal brides, young women fixated on pain and death ? emerge to speak our well-founded anxieties. They signal that just now, the death drive is very strong.

      The sociologist Emile Durkheim wrote of “anomic suicide,” a desire for death that comes from confusion and lack of social direction in the face of hard economic times and societal upheaval. When young people can’t find legitimate aspirations, they feel lost and disoriented. They begin to lose any sense of the limits of desires and become mired in a sense of chronic disappointment. A bankruptcy of expectations leads to a nostalgic fixation on the past and inability to actively meet the future.

      This is what happens when a critic crawls completely up her own ass.

      1. I wonder what women in countries where the likelihood of being starved to death, gang raped, beaten, etc. think of these divas? They’d see them as extraterrestrials, I guess.

      2. Look,

        “”author of “Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture.” She received her Ph.D. in English and cultural theory from NYU.””

        This is called =

        ‘Someone who spent most of their adult life writing the most abstruse horseshit to appeal to cultural studies teachers in the most bubble-world, progressive academic capitals of word-spew on earth’

        And then she wrote a book about something absolutely no one with an actual working brain gives a flying fuck about. Par for course.

        Nick probably has already written something about how “having an English PhD and NOT being a screaming retard” is the *real* accomplishment.

        Its like a curse than prevents you from ever speaking ‘human english’ ever again. You can only speak in ‘academic bullshit’. 99% of these people must eventually return to the Hive from which they were given their imprimatur in order to breed new post-graduate shit-spewers.

        The few that escape with their faculties intact are, like nick, scarred, but stronger.

        1. Oh, good. I thought I had a stroke and that’s why the Jr. Jumble Word Salad made no fucking sense to me.

        2. Nick probably has already written something about how “having an English PhD and NOT being a screaming retard” is the *real* accomplishment.

          What would Nick know about that?


  6. I’m slightly confused. Why don’t people just wear Guy Fawkes masks? Then the facial recognition software will think everyone is Guy Fawkes.

    1. Because then Leo Selvaggio would not achieve notoriety.

      1. What about Guy Fawks’ notoriety?

  7. The plight of the Yezidi minority in IS ruled areas of Iraq –

    If you guessed “teddy bears and bunnies,” you’re *way* off.…..-jihadists

    1. There was some confusion about this you are addressing?

      1. I wasn’t imputing such views to anyone here; sorry if I gave that impression.

  8. I am Leo Selvaggio!

    1. I led you here

  9. Couple weeks ago I saw some kids on a street corner and one of them was wearing a horse head mask.

  10. The problem with facial recognition software is the same problem we have with drug sniffing dogs. It’s another tool for the police to abuse.

    If 20% misrecognition is what they’re willing to admit to, then what are the actual fuckup numbers? Would anybody in a prosecution ever admit that the software did not function correctly, even if it had?

    I would not be surprised if the software was barely ever used beyond a publicly shown proof of concept phase, and prosecutors simply began lying through their teeth that their “beyond a reasonable doubt” facial recognition software had identified the defendant.

    Between lying cops, bloodthirsty prosecutors, and mentally retarded judges, this is just another tool in the torture box of the state.

  11. We interviewed the man (Leo Selvaggio) himself:…..olled-usa/

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