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Photoshop May Put Your Face On A Most Wanted Poster!

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Contributor:
David Silversmith
David Silversmith

A Spanish politician was shocked to find out the FBI took his photo off of a website and used it for a digitally-altered image showing how Osama Bin Laden might look today.

Proving just how much privacy can be lost once a photograph if published on the Internet, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has admitted a forensic artist had obtained certain facial features "from a photograph he found on the internet".

Gasper Llamazares (pictured on the right) said he could not believe it when he was first told about the similarity between himself and the new photo-fit of Bin Laden.  Mr. Llamazares, the former leader of the United Left coalition in the Spanish Parliament, told a news conference that he "was surprised and angered because it's the most shameless use of a real person to make up the image of a terrorist."

The digitally-altered photos of the al-Qaeda leader, showing how he might look now, aged 52, were published on the US state department's Rewards for Justice website. The FBI claimed to have used "cutting edge" technology, but Llamazares said it showed the "low level" of US intelligence services and could cause problems if he was wrongly identified as the Saudi. "It's almost like out of a comedy if it didn't deal with matters as serious as Bin Laden and citizens' security."

It is common for forensic artists to select features from a database of stock reference photographs to create the new images when they are producing age-progressed photographs.  The FBI admitted that, "After a preliminary review, it appears that in this instance the forensic artist was unable to find suitable features among the reference photographs and obtained those features, in part, from a photograph he found on the internet."

The FBI claims the the forensic artist was not aware of the identity of the individual depicted in the photograph.   However, the dangerous issue is that the artist thought that the practice of copying a face, be it a well known face or your face off of Facebook, was a legitimate way to create an age-progressed photo.  One more example of how the Internet and social media sites can put everybody's identity at risk.

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