Are digital disguises our only hope at privacy?

Our privacy is under siege. And it’s a battle on two fronts. In digital spaces, we can’t carry out a single keystroke without being recorded by our internet providers, tech corporations, and Big Brother. In physical spaces, we’re seeing more facial recognition surveillance cameras than ever before.
But this can’t be the end-all-be-all…

On the digital privacy front, our defenses rely on what we choose to disclose digitally — which articles we share, which ads we click, how we speak to others. All of this can be used to create a sort of digital disguise.

Travis, one of our council members, commented on a previous feed item about the weight of managing multiple identities in this day and age:

I remember juggling two separate digital identities AND two separate physical ones. This strategic bipolarity allowed me to keep a “political” and professional perception in select minds, and then face-shift into a social or “party” profile… Digitally, it meant setting strict permissions on who saw what and who was my “friend” within a hard sphere of trust and social separation.


In a way, by carefully choosing your actions you regain control of your digital identity. Although not privacy in the traditional sense, you are at least in control of how you are perceived. And that may be the best we can do.

On the physical front, the path to privacy is a bit clearer. It’s about using the cameras’ flaws against them.

Using a pair of psychedelic-patterned glasses, researchers at Carnegie Mellon were able to not only stop algorithms from recognizing their faces, but they also tricked the algorithms into thinking they were someone else… All at a cost of 22 cents. 

Quick Theories, Digital Disguises

Then again, if you don’t mind looking a little foolish, you can always paint your face like the Insane Clown Posse, which researchers have found actually makes them unrecognizable to AI.

Realistically, most people won’t want to change their image for a little privacy. Which is why it’s nice that we’re getting some help from legislation. California just passed an integral digital privacy bill that will most likely set a standard for other states to follow suit. Essentially it requires more transparency among tech companies as to how they use our data and with whom they share it.

While it’s nice to see the government intervene in 2018, they notoriously are behind the times. I’m curious what we need to put in place that’ll protect us until 2038.

Are digital disguises our only hope at privacy?