Camover, an anonymous group of antisurveillance activists based in Berlin, Germany, announced a competition on its website in late 2012. Under the slogan, “Freedom dies with security,” entrants were invited to smash as many CCTV cameras as they could. When the game ended in February 2013, at least 60 cameras had been smashed in Germany, Finland, Greece and the USA.
By 2014, there will be more active cellphones in the world than people, and more than half will have built-in cameras. The uncensored, globally broadcast images produced by cellphones in 2013 alone – from Istanbul’s pepper-sprayed “woman in red” to videos of Brazilian police brutality – transformed local concerns about a public park and a rise in bus fares into huge international outcries at the treatment of protestors by police. This unprecedented development has led to an arms race between activists and the authorities. When police confiscated memory cards at the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, activists began using smartphone apps such as Qik or UStream to archive video online as they filmed. When governments in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen shut down their national telecommunication networks during crackdowns on protests in 2011’s Arab Spring, campaigners at global civic organization Avaaz distributed secure satellite modems to dissidents. And when authorities in Syria simply confiscated phones from civilians in 2011, revolutionaries resorted to tiny digital cameras disguised as pens.
Cameras may empower protestors, but can also be used against them. The global market for the video surveillance equipment used by security services is set to double in size this decade. Closed-circuit television networks now link to vast databases and facialrecognition technology, and researchers at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory developed a system in 2012 that tracks individuals through their unique “gait signatures.” Soon even a balaclava may not hide you from the state.
Take a quasi-revolutionary name like Berlin’s Black Rabbit of Death Commando, or the Sternburg Export Fraktion (named after a German beer), then mask up, wreck cameras, video the vandalism and post the footage online.
Many cameras can be knocked off their posts or broken in situ with a strong, long stick. Carrying one may look suspicious, but having made sure to conceal your whole head from surveillance with a balaclava, ski mask, or scarf, you should look suspicious already.
A heavy weight tied to a rope can be carried discreetly and used on cameras that are out of reach. Toss the weight over the top of a camera, form a noose, pull tight and yank. Mind your head.
What the Camover website – which was kicked off a series of Internet servers – calls a “good training activity”: assault low-hanging cameras by applying opaque tape to the lens. It’s not a permanent cure to life in an Orwellian nightmare, but it’s a start.
Camover recommends gluing a plastic bag over a camera. In 2010, police in Birmingham, UK, were forced to do the same (without the glue) to 218 of their own cameras, after local activists revealed police cameras were disproportionately concentrated in relatively low-crime, predominantly Muslim areas.
“A sharp hand axe or garden pruning tools” are ideal for cutting a camera’s power cables, advises Camover, adding for good measure, that there are “satisfying sparks emitted when cables cut.” Be sure to wear heavy-duty gloves, and don’t try this if it’s raining.
Soda, oil and Vaseline can all cloud a camera's robotic eye, but paint is sure to blind it. Camover suggests "a child's power water pistol [filled] with household paint," and advises using "a 50/50 mix" of water and paint, pre-filtered to avoid blockages.
Poweful laser pointers can be bought cheaply in many countries and can temporarily blind CCTV cameras from hundreds of meters away. They are not powerful enough to cause permanent damage, however, and demand both a steady hand and perfect aim.
"Climb to the roof of the building on which the camera is mounted [carrying] heavy weights," says Camover, "and drop them on the cameras below." Take aim with small stones before dropping the big one: "Camera will be totally destroyed in a shower of sparks."
From the pages of COLORS #88 - Protest.