Researchers have developed a technology that can link digital photos with the digital camera they were taken with.
The "fingerprint" technology could be used by law enforcement agencies to help track down distributors of child pornography and other producers of illegal digital imagery.
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The solution, developed by researchers at New York’s Binghamton University, analyses the slight variations created by the image sensor in each camera to identify pictures.
“The defence in a child porn case could often be that the images in question were not taken by a defendant’s camera,” said Jessica Fridrich, the Binghamton University engineering professor who oversaw the research.
Fridrich’s team has found that every digital picture is overlaid by a weak noise-like pattern of pixel-to-pixel non-uniformity.
That digital noise pattern is consistent with all images taken from the same camera.
Fridrich said analysis of 2,700 pictures taken with nine digital cameras showed 100% accuracy.
The technology works with cameras in mobile phones, as well as more powerful freestanding ones. It means police dealing with the phenomenon of “happy slapping” – usually young people filming attacks on members of the public – could soon have a new tool to pin down the culprits.