The New Spyware? US Invests in Smart Surveillance Clothing

The New Spyware? US Invests in Smart Surveillance Clothing

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The US government invested $22 million in textiles that can record audio, video, and geolocation data. The program called “SMART ePANTS” develops active smart textiles (AST) with sensors, cameras, and wires, meaning the person wearing this tech can record audio and video of their surroundings, and have their location tracked.

The “technological garments” are planned to be stretchable, washable, and comfortable, and are being developed under the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), which is the advanced research and development arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

These smart clothes are meant to be used by agents and employees of intelligence, counterterrorism, and national security agencies. IARPA stated in a press release that this “eTextile technology” would assist those wearing it without impeding their movement.

Dr. Dawson Cagle, who is in charge of the SMART ePANTS program, explained- “A computer, sensors of some sort, the battery, and the wires and switches that are necessary to connect them have all been developed in one way or another. The SMART ePANTS’ goal is to take all of those individual components and to convert them, to integrate them, into a single device that you can wear.”

According to Interesting Engineering, there are two kinds of smart textiles- passive smart textiles (like anti-UV shirts to protect from sun radiation or dri fit clothes that dry quickly), and active smart textiles (AST). AST are clothes that adapt and change their functionality in response to external changes or user input, meaning they would probably have sensors and wires that would connect them to software and apps.

While the technology claims to be developed to reduce crime, there are fears that it would be used for surveillance, since the US government has been repeatedly accused of mass surveillance of its citizens.

Annie Jacobsen, author of ‘The Pentagon’s Brain’ responded to concerns regarding the SMART ePANTS program becoming a mass surveillance tool, saying that the program will become a tool to “create the vast intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems of the future. They want to know more about you than you.”