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Boffins discover digital-camera 'fingerprints'

Pictures reveal make and model

Pentax Optio M30 compact digital camera

If you recently murdered someone and took a picture of the victim as a little memento, you’d be wise to ditch the camera. Because imaging boffins have developed a way of identifying a camera’s particulars from its pictures.

Scientists at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Polytechnic University, New York said that by retracing the steps each digital camera uses to create a picture, they’re able to identify the make and model of snapper used.

The process involves analysis of a camera’s “demosaicing” image processing software, used to convert the output of the CCD into a photo. Because this software is unique to each camera model, an algorithm can be created to unpick the demosaicing operation, revealing the make and model used.

Mark Pollitt, a former FBI crime lab scientist, told New Scientist that the process could potentially be used to identify when and where a camera was purchased.

Such knowledge would enable police to retrieve security camera footage from a specific camera retailer, which might identify the suspect.

Admittedly, the process isn’t as accurate as the unique stamp made on bullet casings by guns, but tests have shown the process to be around 90 per cent accurate.

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