And the more Hong Kong officials are doing to calm the turmoil in the city, the more their methods are checked by citizens for a touch of security and order.
When asked why they hide their identity, the demonstrators in Hong Kong often refer to something called "white terror".
In the last century, the historical term was used in Asia to describe bloody mass deprivation in revolutionary China and a period of oppression and martial law on the island of Taiwan. In Hong Kong, it is now a generic term used by Carrie Lam, the head of Hong Kong, as well as Agnes Chow, a youth activist for democracy, for extrajudicial intimidation tactics from police brutality to online harassment.
At a rally on August 28 for airline employees allegedly fired for expressing their political views – even a form of white terror – a gray-haired demonstrator told me on the condition of anonymity that she was there was, because she did not want it, white terror anywhere in the world. When asked to explain the term, she said, "You'll feel it if you post something on Facebook and think you could be accused of being a terrorist," she said.
She wore her bandana with strawberry print over her nose and mouth, she explained, because she did not know if unfriendly cameras were in the camera area. When a photo was posted online or handed over to the mainland authorities, she said, "There may be struggles or efforts to check your background, shout at you, or have trouble crossing the border into China." She said that she was sure that her employer, a contractor, would release her if she were expelled as a demonstrator.
After several hours in the afternoon sun, the audience suddenly broke out around an older man in the front row. They interrupted the speakers on stage and accused him of being a spy who was taking pictures for Chinese authorities, which he refused.
When dozens crowded around him, his knees buckled and he was halfway pulled to a low wall nearby. Teenagers, seniors and everyone in between shouted at him and forced him to erase the pictures he had taken. "I want her for my memories," he repeated faintly and made eye contact with no one. It was not until that evening that the demonstrators released him and were reluctantly convinced that he had erased all the images that could be used to identify their faces.
While rumors are circulating that mainland officials are building a photo database of known protesters, there are already online efforts to identify the names of demonstrators and police. In an encrypted app telegram, channels dedicated to disclosing personal information from people on both sides of the protest front have attracted tens of thousands of users.
High-ranking police officers who speak on the condition of anonymity, give the personal data of the officials and contact information, private addresses and more were shared online and described as a form of "psychological war".
There are already tens of thousands of mechanical eyes that watch and record streets and buildings and record Hong Kong, but most public security cameras are not used to identify people. And while any high quality camera can feed images into a database that may be used to identify people, Hong Kong's Privacy Notice instructs operators to delete footage as quickly as possible.
This "smart" lamppost demolished by demonstrators on August 24 is one of 50 installed in the city, the first of 400 planned. They are designed to collect traffic, weather and environmental data and are equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, sensors and cameras. They also have visual analysis and tracking capabilities. However, these functions have never been activated, according to Nicholas Yang, the city's secretary of innovation and technology. He says it's a simple "misunderstanding" that the lampposts could do "unwanted surveillance."
Yang is obviously frustrated at the protesters' criticism and tells CNN that the lampposts are fully compliant with Hong Kong's privacy laws and that the data generated by the stakes are analyzed, anonymised and publicly published. All raw data will be deleted immediately. His office has also used advisory committees to review the project as it develops.
But protesters who are already paying attention to Beijing's shadow are skeptical of officials' assurances as to what the lampposts might or could do in the future.
"Can the Hong Kong government ensure that they never use facial recognition tactics the smart lamppost?" Asks Joshua Wong, the 22-year-old leader of the Umbrella Movement and a prominent activist for democracy. "They can not promise, and they will not, because of the pressure from Beijing."
Shortly after the fall of the lamppost, a government contractor who provided Bluetooth beacons for the posts withdrew from the project, citing attempts to intimidate the families of the employees.
"We find it unacceptable and deeply regret that a local small business was cheated and attacked for participating in the Smart Lamp Project, a major blow to the hard work of the local innovation and technology industries." A government spokesman said
Cities around the world are experimenting with public surveillance and identification technologies, forcing residents to decide how much they know of their governments in exchange for them want data-driven security, hygiene and efficiency.
In the cities of Singapore and Atlanta, the consumer technology website Comparitech currently has about 15 cameras per 1,000 people, compared to 1,000 in London, but nowhere is it multiplying the cameras are faster than in China, where real-time automatic mass surveillance and real-time recognition features are used.
Eight of the top ten most monitored cities in the world are in China (based on camera-to-person ratio), and The government also has extensive powers to investigate data en which traverse the mainland infrastructure. In the alertly-watched region in the far west of Xinjiang, Beijing has been monitoring and imprisoning members of the majority Muslim Uighur population with cameras, personal information, and even "home stays."
"People are Strongly Challenging Hong Kong could at worst be the next Xinjiang," Wong said.
He also cited fears of a less extreme scenario: the extension of China's emerging national social credit system to Hong Kong. The system seeks to assess citizens' behavior by, for example, punishing some for frivolous expenses and rewarding others who abide by the rules.
While there is no indication that any of the two Hong Kong scenarios are in question, they are both indicative of what Hong Kongers fear – a departure from the rule of law and the use of Dragnet surveillance to keep people in the thick of the action to catch the crime, but also to eradicate unwanted actions, relationships and ideas, even if they are legal on paper.
Hong Kong's independent legal system contains a stringent data protection regulation and CCTV cameras. However, as in many countries, the right to privacy is crumbling away from state security. The regulation allows for the transfer of personal data without the consent of individuals in cases of criminal offenses or surveillance authorized by an arrest warrant.
In addition, laws can be changed at any time, as emphasized by Stuart Hargreaves, adjunct professor of law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
"The government may, at any time, completely surrender the law to the Basic Law (which includes a right to privacy) subject to the obligations it is subject to, or it may amend the law to include images collected for public safety, not subject to the retention elements of the law, "he said. But right now, he adds, "there's no evidence that they're planning that."
He stresses that there is no evidence that the government's new lampposts provide coverage for increased surveillance.
Rather than on evidence that the government has used CCTV cameras in a particularly nefarious manner, "Hargreaves said.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam had hoped to end the month-long movement last week by finally announcing However, the movement has since become more worried: Last weekend, tens of thousands of demonstrators filled the city's central streets, most of them covered when they marched to the US Consulate for sanctions against them Demand members of their own government.
For now, they seem to see little reason to give up their masks.