The #PaperBagSociety challenge

The #PaperBagSociety is a social media challenge part of the #ReclaimYourFace campaign that invites everyone to share online the impact of living life with a paperbag on the head. With it, we aim to raise awareness of how ridiculous is to avoid facial recognition technologies in public spaces and why we need to build an alternative future, free from biometric mass surveillance.

In the past months, we’ve raised awareness of the dangers of biometric mass surveillance. Part of the process was also understanding how complex the systems that rely on biometric data are. We tried to find different ways to trick them, looking at facial recognition surveillance technologies deployed in our public spaces. The results are clear: as an individual, it is terribly difficult to trick biometric mass surveillance.

This is the reason why, at some point, one of the campaign organisers joked:

“Let’s just put a paper bag on our head and we’ll be safe from facial recognition surveillance”.

We ask: what would it be like to go about our daily lives with the paper bag on our head? Do we need to use a paper bag to protect our faces from creepy recognition technologies? Is this the society we want to live in? In a world that remains dominated by ableism, it could be challenging to love, to cross the street, to merely interact.

Collectively, a #PaperBagSociety becomes a dystopian reality, a metaphor for the way biometric mass surveillance suppresses our choices, our speech and our freedoms. We realised this could be a great imagination exercise for anyone wanting to understand better why we need a world free from intrusive technologies that track our bodies and behaviour.

This is how the #PaperBagSociety challenge was born.

The #PaperBagSociety is a social media challenge part of the #ReclaimYourFace campaign. The challenge invites everyone to share on social media the impact of living life with a paperbag on the head.

Illustration and design: Valentina Carrasco https://www.lamismailustra.com/

Using absurd comedy, this action aims to draw attention to why the heavy burden of avoiding creepy biometric surveillance technologies in public spaces should not fall on us, the people.

Instead, the action emphasises that an alternative future is possible. There are solutions to prevent a paper bag society: we must ban biometric mass surveillance across the EU and beyond.

Be part of the #PaperBagSociety challenge!

  1. Go for a stroll in a publicly accessible space (public square, on the street, in a train station, a supermarket, a cafe, a stadium, shopping mall etc).
  2. Put a paper bag on and try to live in the public space.
  3. Take a video or a photo of the experience and share it on social media.
  4. Make sure to tag #ReclaimYourFace & #PaperBagSociety and explain to your friends why we must ban biometric mass surveillance.

P.S. First and above all: make sure you don’t put yourself or others in danger. Keep it cool.

P.S.2: Are you lucky enough to be a citizen in an EU country? VOTE to BAN biometric mass surveillance!

See how the first week looked like:

The article was first published by Reclaim Your Face here.

Sign the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI)

If you're an EU citizen, you can help us change EU laws by signing the official #ReclaimYourFace initiative to ban biometric mass surveillance practices:

This is not a regular petition, but an official “European Citizens’ Initiative” (ECI) run by EDRi on behalf of the European Commission. This means your signature must be officially verified by national authorities, according to each EU country’s specific rules. We cannot control the data that they require, since it is required by Regulation (EU) 2019/788 on the European citizens’ initiative for the purpose of confirming your signature. We can only use the information that you provide in Step 2 to contact you with updates, if you choose to enter it. Furthermore, our ECI signature collection system has been verified by the German Federal Information Security Office (BSI) to ensure it is compliant with the EU’s Regulation on ECIs. Please see our “Why ECI?” page for further details, and check out our privacy policy.

This ECI is open to all EU citizens, even if you currently live outside the EU (although there are special rules for Germany). Unfortunately if you are not an EU national, the EU’s official rules say that you cannot sign. Check https://reclaimyourface.eu other ways than non-EU citizens can help the cause.

Note to German citizens: It is possible to sign our ECI petition if you live outside the EU, but German rules mean that for German citizens specifically, your signature will only be valid if you are registered with your current permanent residence at the relevant German diplomatic representation. If you are not registered, then unfortunately your signature will not be counted. You can read more information about the rules. This rule does not apply to citizens of any other EU country.

Legally, if we reach 1 million signatures (with minimum thresholds met in at least 7 EU countries) then the European Commission must meet with us to discuss our proposal for a new law. They must then issue a formal communication (a piece of EU soft law) explaining why they are or are not acting on our proposal, and they may also ask the European Parliament to open a debate on the topic. For these reasons, a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is a powerful tool for getting our topic onto the EU agenda and showing wide public support for banning biometric mass surveillance practices.

Learn more about the campaign to ban biometric mass surveillance practices at our official website

Reclaim Your Face