A group of scientists in London think they may have discovered the identity of anonymous graffiti superstar Banksy. Namely, they believe Banksy might in fact be Robin Gunningham, the very same person first put forward by the Daily Mail in 2008. Art world, prepare for shockwaves.
The researchers used a method known as geographic profiling, a technique most often used in tracking down criminals — criminals like known vandal Banksy. To determine if Gunningham might in fact be Banksy, the team first entered the locations of 192 pieces of street art attributed to Banksy in London and Bristol. Then they put in seven places they believe to be related to Gunningham: schools he attended, places he lived, a place he played soccer, etc.
The resulting study, published in the Journal of Spatial Sciences, said there’s a correlation between the two sets of locations. “I would call him an excellent suspect,” said Dr. Kim Rossmo of Texas State University, one of the study’s authors. “He’s got connections to two entirely different cities that are involved here.”
Lest you think anything gets done anymore without some sort of nefarious intent, the group behind the study have said they only used Banksy as a test case to see if geographic profiling can effectively be used to track people who spread propaganda — or say paint radical political messages on walls. The ultimate goal is — you guessed — to use the technique to hunt terrorists.
For what it’s worth, the Gunningham family has denied any connection to Banksy, and Robin Gunningham himself could not be reached because he effectively disappeared more than ten years ago — nothing suspicious there.
Issues of privacy, and the potential crackdown on political dissidents notwithstanding, what might be the most terrifying thing about this whole case is that the Daily Mail was right about something. We’re just not sure that’s a world we want to live in.