Sometimes, I wonder about identity theft. Nothing serious, you know, a quick worry on my long commute home at night. Gosh, what if someone got hold of all my passwords? What if someone had a grip on my bank and crypto accounts? What if someone, through clever phishing, succeeded in virtually becoming me? A fleeting thought… I moved everything into two factor authentication or advanced biometrics months ago, and my passwords are so complicated that even I can’t fathom a decent way to remember them. Seriously, who would want my life anyway?
And, then Prof. Ruth Morgan entered my life. I’m still trembling. The young woman in the little black dress, with the soft friendly voice scared the heck out of me. Professor Ruth Morgan is the Founder and Director of the UCL Centre for the Forensic Sciences and Professor of Crime and Forensic Science at UCL. She heads up a network of researchers (think CSI Miami on steroids) from a wide range of dark, forgotten, avant-garde and simply mind-blowing different disciplines that is focused on developing the field of forensic science evidence interpretation.
Your hair could get you on the chair
Prof. Ruth Morgan delved joyfully into the many ways forensic evidence is often misread, misrepresented or misinterpreted. The consequences in criminal cases are huge: people end up in jail, on death row, and on the electric chair because some scientists did not add up the evidence as they should have. Morgan explains how the DNA your very own sweaty bum leaves on a chair, could end up at the center of a murder scene without you even knowing it. That hair, and the couple of million dead skin cells you left on your coffee mug, could very well be used in a crime investigation against you.
There is only one you: defend it
Prof. Ruth Morgan has a sweet, razor-sharp and entertaining way to show that forensic science is not as infallible as it is assumed to be. The consequences of the law deciding pieces of you are directly linked to a murder scene are huge, dramatic, and potentially lethal. It made everybody at the Me-Convention also rethink how other incarnations of you could get you in deep trouble. What if someone uses my online me to commit a crime? What if someone uses my password to do the unthinkable?
Morgan made it very clear: once the evidence is there, the natural flow (powered by Occam’s razor) is to make the evidence work. Your hair was there, your digital footprint was there: you did it. It requires special skills, a special ways of thinking to ensure that evidence is interpreted in a fair and open way.
Forensic science evidence interpretation saves and clears reputations and lives. Digital Forensic science evidence interpretation might be a job for the very near future.
It was not me
In the meantime: if ever I get charged with murder or worse… it was not me. Call Professor Ruth Morgan, she might be my only hope…