Sunday, May 24, 2015

Public Shaming Through DNA

An NGO that's been trying to convince people in Hong Kong to pick up after themselves called Hong Kong Cleanup has just joined an advertising agency in order to publicly shame the litterbugs of Hong Kong.

Through DNA tests from the trash they collected, they created digital posters of the people who don't know how to use a trash can. Some of these posters are now up on billboards in the city. The billboards basically say this person is wanted for throwing a cigarette on the ground or gum or whatever trash was tested.

On the one hand, something needs to be done about how much people treat this city like their own personal trash can. I don't mind the public shaming. If you spit out your gum on the sidewalk, you've already shamed yourself. The posters don't encourage the public to find the person and beat them to death with their own cigarettes. They simply point out that the person shown has committed a crime.

On the other hand, how accurate is this DNA testing? One article said that the digital images are never going to be 100% accurate. They are more like a “family resemblance”. There's also no way of knowing how old the person is through their DNA. So you could see a picture of yourself on a billboard accusing you of littering when it was actually your son or grandfather doing the littering.

This might be a minor issue. Especially in a country where no one give's a rat's ass about littering. But sooner or later this technology can be used for more serious crimes. If there's ever a billboard of someone accusing them of murder or rape, they better have done it. Close enough isn't good enough.

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