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The Dangers of 3D Scanning

on Aug 14 2014 , 06:00:51

A lot has changed since Madonna told us we’re living in a material world. In 1984 you couldn’t browse the internet on the go or even send a message to a friend while stuck in traffic, and you certainly couldn’t create an accurate replica of something within minutes through a digital blueprint. We made the move from tangible to digital a while ago, and with each new advance in technology it seems we will never look back.

While the technologies we integrate with our lives are undoubtedly beneficial, they also tend to come with a price. 3D scanning and printing are relatively new technologies to the consumer market yet both have already been plagued with many probable worst-case scenarios. 3D scanning, the act of capturing an object’s exact size, shape and appearance onto a separate device and having the ability to transfer this data elsewhere, has enabled sharing of details that are sometimes best left unshared.

Case in point #1

In Japan, a woman named Megumi Igarashi was recently arrested on grounds of obscenity for 3D scanning her vagina and turning the digital blueprint into a giant model replica in the form of a canoe. She shared the digital blueprint of her vagina as part of a crowdfunding effort, saying she wanted people to shed preimposed taboos with vaginas and the human body. Although her efforts may not have worked out as she’d hoped, the news traveled far and images of Megumi’s replicated vagina were soon gracing the likes of The Guardian and TIME.

Source: The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

A ‘3D printed vagina selfie’ as The Guardian referred to it is hardly something most women would want shared or seen, but what Megumi did isn’t necessarily life threatening. Unfortunately, 3D scanning does have further downsides that do pave the way for potentially more harmful scenarios.

Case in point #2

Wired.com writer Andy Greenberg recently wrote an article describing how he used a scanning app on his iPhone to create a replica of his neighbor’s key and break into his apartment (with permission) in less than one hour. Andy’s neighbor lives in a second-floor Brooklyn walk-up, so when Andy came to the building’s front door his neighbor simply tossed him the key. In the minute it took for Andy to walk up the stairs to his neighbor’s apartment door, he used an app called KeyMe to take a picture of his neighbor’s keys and upload it to the app’s servers, where it was then stored and ready to be copied at a KeyMe kiosk. Andy left his neighbor’s apartment (sans key), had the scanned image of the key ‘developed’ at a KeyMe kiosk a few blocks away, and broke into his surprised neighbor’s apartment.


What this means is that anyone who manages to get your key even for a matter of seconds can break into your house in less than an hour. 3D scanning enables us to have an exact replica of pretty much anything, from body parts to keys. While the benefits run high, so do the implications.

3D scanning and printing can make things incredibly personal. As the technologies keep growing, there will have to be some form of heavy imposed regulation to prevent the worst-case scenarios from being realized.


Shanie Phillips is a originally from the UK, but has spent many years in Singapore, the US and now Israel. In addition to writing for Inside3DP she writes for several news and innovation sites.

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