Prosthetic mask developed to evade CCTV in the name of privacy

9 May 2014

URME Surveillance's mask of company owner Leo Selvaggio

A company in Chicago has taken privacy protection to a greater level with the development of a prosthetic mask, of the company owner’s face, to make individuals indistinguishable.

While the advent of an affordable prosthetic mask that allows you to appear like everyone else may seem like a dream for wanted criminals, Leo Selvaggio of URME Surveillance in Chicago feels that the levels of monitoring by governments and police forces has gone too far.

The resin masks of Selvaggio’s face are 3D printed to include all his facial features, and even the stubble that he usually sports, but with the addition of eye holes for the wearer that would only appear out of the ordinary if you were to look directly into them.

In essence, Selvaggio is attempting to make a Guy Fawkes mask for the 21st century. He explained his reasons for the need for such masks on the company’s website.

“Our world is becoming increasingly surveilled. For example, Chicago has over 25,000 cameras networked to a single facial recognition hub. We don’t believe you should be tracked just because you want to walk outside and you shouldn’t have to hide, either. Instead, use one of our products to present an alternative identity when in public.”

Perhaps unfortunately for Selvaggio, the mask is so effective that a camera with facial recognition software was only able to identify a person wearing one of the URME masks as the founder himself, so if any owner of one of these masks finds themselves under the scrutiny of the law, the company’s founder may have to answer a few questions.

Currently listing on the site for the price of US$200, privacy-conscious people can also go with a much more affordable option of a paper mask equivalent, which will set a person back US$1.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic