Hong Kong computes images from DNA samples to publicly shame litterbugs


In 2015 Hong Kong's Face of Litter campaign used DNA samples taken from street litter and collected from volunteers to create facial images that were then posted on billboards across the city. The campaign, conceived by PR firm Ogilvy & Mather and organised by online magazine Ecozine and the Nature Conservancy, was intended to give a face to anonymous Hong Kong litterbugs and raise awareness of the extent of littering in the city and encourage people to change their behaviour. For processing, the DNA was sent to the US-based company Parabon Nanolabs, which used its phenotyping system, SnapShot, to predict ethnicity, face shape, freckling, and eye, hair, and skin colour. The company also derived clues as to age from the type and location of the litter. The resulting "WANTED" posters and digital banners were displayed in high-traffic areas around the city and at the locations where the litter was found. Hong Kong was the first city to try such a strategy; however, some US apartment blocks require dog-owning residents to deposit samples of their dogs' DNA so they can identify irresponsible owners.

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