Picking Up the Pieces

In its crudest form, the art of reconstructing shredded documents has been around for as long as shredders have. After the takeover of the United States Embassy in Tehran in 1979, Iranian captors laid pieces of documents on the floor, numbered each one and enlisted local carpet weavers to reconstruct them by hand, said Malcolm Byrne of the National Security Archive at George Washington University. "For a culture that's been tying 400 knots per inch for centuries, it wasn't that much of a challenge," he said. The reassembled documents were sold on the streets of Tehran for years. [...]

ChurchStreet's software analyzes the graphical patterns that go to the edge of each piece. First, workers paste the random shreds onto standard sheets of paper, which takes three to seven minutes per page. The pages are scanned, and software analyzes the shreds for possible matches. [...] ChurchStreet, whose clients are mainly law agencies and private law firms, charges roughly $2,000 to reconstruct a cubic foot of strip-shreds. A cubic foot of shreds is generally less than 100 pages. Mr. Ford said ChurchStreet would soon offer a service to reconstruct cross-shredded documents - that is, those cut in two directions - for $8,000 to $10,000 per cubic foot.

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11 Responses:

  1. vxo says:

    I remember seeing some MovieOS version of this software in "The Lone Gunmen", although, this software apparently had a God Mode - all you had to do for the scanning phase was randomly drop the pile of shreds on the scanner, overlapping being perfectly acceptable, and ding, there was your document image.

    I wonder which this is a case of - life imitating art, or art imitating life?

  2. giles says:

    Note to self:

    Start peeing in garbage can.

    • that you have a small furry animal as your icon makes your comment highly amusing.

    • eck says:

      Heh. I already toss stuff like chewed gum (and worse) in with documents I particularly want anyone to suffer for if they decide to attempt reconstruction.

      My shredder's basket is actually full for the first time since I've put off emptying it until I can spread the contents between disposal methods. Which surely isn't worth the effort, but if I'm gonna bother shredding...?

      It strikes me that one really, really doesn't want to go dumpster diving anywhere people (especially geeks?) actually live. People undoubtedly get far more paranoid about their personal documents than organizations ever will.

  3. inoshiro says:

    People who actually care about secrets will burn the documents, and rake the ashes. They may also optionally make soap using these ashes.

    • Ah but some people are so lazy as to not bother, I work in a hospital where patient confidentiality, as always, is paramount. The patient themselves could reconstruct their own paper, claim that someone else found it, and sue...that would take work, aye, but thus there is the profit.

    • king_mob says:

      I'm not sure if you're joking or not. After the Iran embassy thing, US military intelligence(at least) started burn-bagging all its shred.

      In the mid-80s, they mostly quit bothering, because they got new shredders that turned documents to powder.

  4. dk379 says:

    more commments available here

  5. scosol says:

    Daughters Of Darkness?

    I don't know that- but I've loved Depth Charge ever since I randomly picked up Lust cause it had a strange shiny cover :p
    Is there a new record out that I haven't heard about?

    • jwz says:

      I only have Nine Deadly Venoms from 1994; it's pretty silly: full of kung fu movie samples.

      • scosol says:

        Ahh ok- i have that one but I don't know the song names on it-

        What else do I have- Rare Originals, Lust, and Lust2.

        I fully recommend Lust

        The Allmusic comments are valid, hence it's low rating- but to me it sounds refined and ever-flowing- it's my #1.