Altering Faces. Data Protection And Sore Thumbs

To those that, contrary to any evidence, still believe that data protection equals privacy, this case will come as a shock: the police of Portland (Oregon – USA) ? used Adobe Photoshop to remove tattoos from the picture of a suspect so that he could “blend” better in a photo-based identification. The defense of the suspect claimed that that was a way to “frame” him, while the prosecutor said that the “digital make-up” has been necessary to avoid excessive attention on the face of the suspect itself. The Court still haven’t issue a decision on the matter.

A few issues:

  • Is this a Personal Data Case? Yes. A few things but tattoos identify or make a person identifiable.
  • If happened in the EU, would had it be a GDPR Case? The GDPR doesn’t cover judicial activity and law enforcement investigation. Nonetheless, this is case where the notion of “fair processing” comes into play. Altering reality can hardly be hold as a “fair” behaviour.
  • If not the GDPR, what would have stopped this? This is a case of “reverse fairness” and “investigative malice”. Police wanted to be “fair” toward the suspect and – in the meantime – explore the “possibility” that he disguised the tattoos with a make-up. The due process right prevents (or should prevent) law enforcement from resorting to this trick.


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