Saturday, October 08, 2005

Can We Trust the Digital?

I recently read an article online from the magazine Popular Science. The above photograph was originally taken by Lance Corporal Ted "JOEY" Boudreaux Jr. and the sign originally said "Welcome US Marines". You wouldn't know that from looking at the pictures though. Shortly after the LCPL Boudreaux sent his digital picture home through email, it surfaced again on the internet on blogs....only this time the sign read some quite different things.

One of the pictures had been changed to read 'Lcpl Boudreaux killed my dad then he knocked up my sister!" another read 'Lcpl Boudreaux saved my dad then he rescued my sister!" and yet another the sign was completely blank, which speaks to the fact that these digital images can be altered effortlessly by anyone.

For the LCPL, this whole ordeal lead to a mulitple month long investigaiton into his actions and the threat of court martial looming over head. This is not only a problem that plagues certain military personnel. If this digital image cannot be trusted, can any of them?

Its a scary thought that someone could black mail you with a completely fabricated image, but its happening. Senator John Kerry was almost ruined when a damaging image of him surfaced on the internet. As it turned out, it was a phony picture, but it may still have affected some peoples opinons of him as he ran for president. President Bush also saw some of this problem, but none of it was greatly publisized.

This cheap technolgy is available to millions of people who now posses computers and digital cameras. All it takes is photo shop, a little know how and a person with a picture. This could mean much for the court system. How can photos be entered into evidence if they could be 'doctored'? The article sited that some people are escaping punishment for child pornography by arguing that the images are computer genertated. As it turns out, there is some computer generated child pornography, according to the article. This opens up a whole different debate upon whether CG pornography of children is the same thing as the real deal. I don't want to go into this, however.

Its not all bad news though. There are already in the makings, forensic sciences that can decipher the minute differences between a real images and an altered digital images. Hopefully, these fields will develop suffeciently to keep pace with the growing problem of fraudulent digital images.

Although Lance Corporal Boudreaux may have escaped the harm that this photo may have caused him, there are many other people who may not be so lucky. This is a real problem in the making. It will be interesting to see how or if it will be solved.



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