Feeds

Government outlaws Photoshopped passport pics

But baulks at debate on representative art

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Since the UK Passport Service started to go digital last year, some applicants have run into a little Rise of the Machines-related trouble. Maybe your skin's the wrong colour (which takes you back, but they don't mean it in the old sense), or your baby's too shiny, or for some reason won't look straight at the camera.

People who look like people as far as other people are concerned do not always look like what the UKPS photo digitisation system thinks people ought to look like. Hence, the photo is rejected and the applicant is encouraged to try to look more like the UKPS' concept of what they should look like. It seemed clear to us when the new photo guidelines were announced that the sensible thing to do would be to snap yourself digitally and then give yourself a quick Photoshopping, adding or subtracting tan as necessary, matting yourself up a tad and knocking your teeth out, should the raw image exhibit an excess of Jenny Agutter (only a machine could conceive of such an "excess" being possible, surely).

Obviously we didn't mention this at the time because if it came to the Home Office's attention that it was poised on the brink of a nightmare philosophical argument about art, images and representation, it would put a stop to it right away. Which it now has. According to Home Office Minister Andy Burnham guidance was updated in December to advise "customers" that "the digital enhancement of photographs was not recommended." Actually the guidance was updated in the old news announcement, which hardly anybody's going to read now, but seems not to be present in the standard guidance that most people will consult. Joined up government in action.

No matter, because it's a bit of a cop-out anyway. Given that UKPS remains happy about receiving pictures taken by digital cameras and produced by digital printers (1200dpi or better recommended), we really need a better definition of what it means by digital enhancement. If the enhancements are part of the camera's standard processes, then is that OK? Shouldn't whatever it is that UKPS' systems are doing to the picture count as digital enhancement, and if so, why is it OK for them but not for you? Is it just a case of you not being supposed to make yourself look prettier (e.g. spot removal)? Would it be OK to make yourself uglier (digital degradation)?

The announcement has, as you see, merely postponed the Home Office's long overdue debate on the nature and purpose of representative art. Perhaps someone should ask Culture, Media and Sport instead. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more
Oh yeah ... and a 30% cut for Amazon to seal the deal
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London
Plus: Almost NOBODY uses pay-by-bonk on buses - Visa
Nintend-OH NO! Sorry, Mario – your profits are in another castle
Red-hatted mascot, red-colored logo, red-stained finance books
Twitch rich as Google flicks $1bn hitch switch, claims snitch
Gameplay streaming biz and search king refuse to deny fresh gobble rumors
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.