What if you could look at someone and immediately determine whether they’re a criminal? What do you think they would look like? It seems unbelievable now, but back in the 19th century, medical professionals believed that a single, seemingly insignificant physical detail could provide hard evidence for a person’s guilt. Unsurprisingly, the “science” they developed behind their theory is just as distrubing as their claim.

This theory was originally developed by the Italian professor Cesare Lombroso in the early 1870s. Lombroso, now seen as the “father of criminology,” was a unique character in his own right.

Cesare came up with the idea while examining the dead body of a former thief and arsonist named Giuseppe Villella. He noticed that Villella had peculiar indentations on the back of his skull resembling that of an ape.

In his 1876 book Criminal Man, Lombroso described Villella’s skull as that of “an atavistic being who reproduces in his person the ferocious instincts of primitive humanity and the inferior animals,” essentially comparing Villella to a primal form of a human being with cognitive characteristics similar to an ape.  

BBC

Lombroso believed that criminals often displayed identifying facial features such as humungous jaws and distinctly high cheekbones. These features, Lombroso argued, suggested a “love of orgies and the irresistible craving for evil for its own sake.”

Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images

These new ideas seemed revolutionary at the time and influenced a major change in the way criminologists analyzed crimes. Subscribing to this theory meant that humans were not born with free will. Instead, they were born with innate characteristics that made them a “born criminal”.

Jstor

Lombroso’s new school of thought argued that one could identify a criminal from birth by analyzing features in the human skull. This theory has been debunked by modern scientists but, surprisingly, still plays a role in debates about nature versus nurture.

E.F. Lambert

The pseudoscience behind Lombroso’s thinking was a combination of phrenology and physiognomy. Using these pseudosciences in conjunction, one could supposedly predict a person’s personality based on skull and facial features.

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

However, these predictive traits often relied on stereotypical racism such as “oblique eyelids, a Mongolian characteristic” and “the projection of the lower face and jaws (prognathism) found in negroes.”

Lombroso even mapped out facial characteristics for specific crimes! In his book Criminal Man, he stated, “In general, thieves are notable for their expressive faces and manual dexterity, small wandering eyes that are often oblique in form, thick and close eyebrows, distorted or squashed noses, thin beards and hair, and sloping foreheads.”

Amazon

Prior to creating this new school of thought, Lombroso was a professor of psychiatry and director of an insane asylum. He specialized in nervous pathology and anthropology. Could these settings have given Lombroso such strange ideas?

FX

It wasn’t until he began teaching forensic medicine at the University of Turin that he became an authority figure in the world of law enforcement and criminology. Here, Lombroso began specifying crime and criminals as their own individual area of study, earning him the misplaced moniker, “the father of modern criminology.”

Wikimedia Commons

Lombroso was also one of the first people to write about female crime. He would often provide insight into unusual and horrific criminal cases as an expert witness.

He once provided an expert testimonial for a case regarding the sexual assault and infection of a three-year-old girl. Following the case, Lombroso boasted that he singled out the perpetrator using physiognomy and traces of a syphilis outbreak.

Netflix

After various successes as a criminologist and writer, Lombroso’s warped vision of forensic psychology spread throughout the West. It became known as Social Darwinism, which spread into the upper echelon of academic circles.

The Smithsonian

Leading American sociologist Charles A. Ellwood was a vehement subscriber to Lombroso’s theories. Ellwood would eventually become president of the American Sociological Society. He often cited Lombroso’s work and used his ideology as a frame of reference.

Lombroso was also a source of inspiration for others conducting criminal studies. But instead of achieving justice, the results of these experiments were often notably racist in nature.

Unfortunately, Francis Galton, a racist British anthropologist further warped these theories and created “eugenics” which helped propagate negative stereotypes about Jewish people, even influencing Nazi theories.

Most subscribers to Lombroso’s theories often failed completely to successfully profile criminals using his method. As the science of criminology improved, more prolific people began popping up and speaking out against physiognomy and phrenology, such as Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy.

Still, Lombroso’s idea of a “criminal type” was propagated in film and various scientific publications despite all the evidence against it. Fritz Lang, for example, was inspired by Lombroso when casting the movie M. Fortunately, as time passed, his theories were phased out and replaced by scientifically accurate research.

However, Lombroso would still proliferate into the modern era when his theories came into question with the advent of facial recognition technology. Raising eyebrows throughout the world, facial recognition made use of Lombroso’s “criminal type” features. Within the past few years, criminals may have twisted this technology to their own purposes.

In 2017, a photo-transformation program called FaceApp hit the marketplace, and two years later it exploded into a viral phenomenon. But the app’s creators were hiding a secret that people were never made aware of.

The main draw of the app was users’ ability to take photos of themselves and completely change how they looked. They could swap their gender or change their hairstyle with the press of a button. That wasn’t all either.

Forbes

The feature that gained the most attention in 2019 was the aging simulator. In vividly realistic detail, it applied a layer to selfies to simulate what the subject would look like as an old timer.

Fortune

The results were impressive, if not a little bit creepy. Once FaceApp caught on in the celebrity community, stars shared the hilarious pics of their older selves. It then spread like wildfire.

New York Post

From then on, everybody was downloading the app and sharing their augmented photos online. It became so popular so fast that hardly anyone stopped to consider they were putting their futures at risk.

Every app comes with terms and conditions, though users seldom stop to read through them. With so many of these agreements practically reaching the length of a novel, who has the time?

However, Faceapp fans missed one catch buried in the legalese. It stated that developers owned the rights to any user photos — possibly any in users’ photo libraries as well. When this news broke, many panicked when they learned where the images were going.

These photos were all going to Russia, home of the company Wireless Labs. An international tech firm is no big deal in the modern age, but many Americans found this connection troubling.

National Geographic

The Russian government wasn’t afraid to bend technology — and the law — to their advantage. It was entirely possible this FaceApp fad was a way to trick the West into signing away their images.

Many tech experts sounded off on the grave implications. In the wrong hands, these photos could be used to build a massive information database or train artificial intelligence facial recognition. It got worse.

Experts fear the database — or similar tech — is the first very steps in creating a dystopian world similar to that seen George Orwell’s 1984. People willingly signed away their photos to a “Big Brother” organization just to take funny photos!

Will there be other apps or technologies in the future that ask for even more from us — like text messages or locations? By then, will we be comfortable giving up that information, too? These problems caught the eyes of powerful people in the U.S. government.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer didn’t take these warnings lightly. He recognized this fad as a potential crisis and demanded an explanation. After all, popular apps have misused data in the past.

Pokemon Go, for instance, previously came under fire for collecting user information and location date so the creators could sell it to third-party companies. That was purely for profit, but FaceApp could be aiming for political leverage.

In the hands of Russian hackers, Schumer warned, millions of Americans could be at risk. Even scarier, there didn’t appear to be any way for FaceApp users to protect themselves after downloading the app.

Deleting the app — or destroying your cell phone — wouldn’t do a thing. Wireless Labs already added all those photos to their cloud the moment users downloaded FaceApp. However, someone stepped forward to offer an explanation.

YouTube / MaxTechChannel

Yaroslav Goncharov, founder of Wireless Labs, assured the world that FaceApp wasn’t behaving nefariously. He promised that his company wasn’t giving data to the Russian government and explained that most photos got deleted from their cloud after 48 hours.

The Globe Post

Still, Yaroslav’s guarantee wasn’t enough for Senator Schumer. Calling upon the FBI to launch an official investigation into FaceApp, he explained that its security concerns could particularly endanger a select group of American citizens.

Yahoo

If the Kremlin did pull the strings on FaceApp, it would be a disaster for the future President to be implicated. That’s why Schumer pleaded with all 2020 candidates, as well as the larger public, to steer clear of the trend.

CNN

While it remains to be seen whether or not FaceApp is an actual threat, there is an easy way to protect your data. Simply stop downloading new apps, or just put your cellphone away! You might actually enjoy the real world.

Besides, there’s an easy way to find out what you’ll look like when you’re older. Wait! Time moves rapidly enough as it is, so no need to speed up the effects of aging. Nevertheless, the FaceApp bandwagon is difficult to stop.

GIPHY

Tons of users, famous or not, continue to share their older doppelgängers. Some of the world’s most iconic celebs have been enjoying the app — and fans are going crazy for more. And when you see some of the best, it’s easy to see why.

Perez Hilton

1. Courteney Cox: As hard as it is to imagine the ‘Friends’ star out of a crop top and the 90s, It’s probably about time we all face the facts. At least all those years in comedy paid off, looks like Monica has some hard earned laugh lines to look forward to.

2. Ryan Gosling: When it comes to signature looks, it’s hard to compete with Ryan’s signature smolder. But even that iconic stare must fall when confronted by age. Good thing he still looks good in grey.

3. Kate Middleton: The Duchess of Cambridge is one of the most iconic beauties. Unfortunately, it looks like all that royal business catches up with her. But by the time she looks like this, she’ll have most likely taken over the title of Queen Consort, so she’s probably not complaining.

4. Prince George: Speaking of future royals, if this little prince takes after his grandma, we’ll all see the day when he is looking something like this. Hopefully he’ll sprout a few more inches so he can live up to his royal highness.

5. LeBron James: LeBron’s infamous hairline has always given him a bit of a more mature look. No doubt he’s still on the court, playing beside his grandson, putting up 30 points per night.

6. Miley Cyrus: Miley definitely seems to have kept her cool; she’s even giving off a bit of a Madam Secretary vibe. Secretary Cyrus could definitely negotiate a ceasefire and then meet the British ambassador for lunch — all before noon!

Miley

7. Hilary Duff: It turns out even Lizze McGuire isn’t wrinkle-proof. At least girl is still keeping it fresh by rocking those hoops. Age ain’t nothing but a number after all…

8. Lady Gaga: Everyone’s favorite glam girl has been keeping it funky and fresh for over decade now. Looking forward, it seems that we can still put our money on this silver foxy to keep it up. Some people really are just born a star.

9. Justin Bieber: The Biebs has gone through a lot of looks during his career, but this future “dad going through a midlife crisis” thing we’re not so sure about. Unfortunately, we think it is too late now to say sorry.

10. Barack Obama: The 44th U.S. President loves basketball, so he managed to stay in shape. But even so, holding office has some crazy aging effects. And father time can do even more damage than overseeing a powerful nation, apparently.

11. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson: His workout and diet routines are legendary (seriously, he eats 10 pounds of cod per day), and he’s clearly in great shape. But even his immense strength can’t hold back Father Time.

12. Meghan Markel: She captured the world’s attention after marrying into the Royal Family. It’s too bad the pressures of Duchess life will eventually take their toll. But hey if a little sunken-in face is the price to live like a royal, sign us up!

13. Betty White: The Golden Girls actress is a true icon, and at her age, she’s still looking pretty incredible. But what happens when she goes from old to really old? Woof. We’re sorry, Betty.

14. Beyoncé: When it comes to the pop culture landscape, no one’s bigger than Queen Bee. But what does age do to her royal looks? Well the aging tech just reveals she can still kick your butt regardless of her age. Bow down.

15. Harry Potter: Wait, wait, wait. Isn’t there supposed to be some kind of polyjuice potion that makes you stay young forever? If Harry Potter can’t figure it out, there really is no hope for the rest of us.

16: Emma Stone: When you’re named one of Time’s Most Influential People, you know you’ve had a pretty impressive run. But on the personal front, will Emma’s looks hold up as well as her career? You decide.

17. Kim Kardashian: You better believe that Kim Kardashian isn’t being seen in public looking anything less than her best. In the future, however, a visit to Dr. Fisher is 100% on the cards.

18. Kanye West: He’s looking more like a grandpa, but he still has that intense focus in his eyes. He’s undoubtedly the type to tell you about how rap music was better back in his day.

19. Gigi Hadid: Older Gigi’s fashion is on point, but her skin has taken a toll from all those bright, hot runway lights. Well, any skin care regimen crumbles over time.

20. Eminem: Remember when Eminem burst onto the scene with bleached blonde hair and baggy pants? Well he’s matured a bit since then. He’ll definitely join Kanye in complaining about the golden years of rap.

21. Drake: Drake might still be hanging with the biggest stars, but with a little help from our aging technology, he appears to have progressed from “sad boy” to “sad grandpa.” His hair’s still looking good, too.

22. Cardi B: Cardi’s still rocking the bright colors, but age has gotten to her face. In fact, this look is giving us a bit of a technicolor Disney villain vibe. Look out, Dalmatians.

23. Cristiano Ronaldo: While Cristiano’s body is probably still in great shape, age has taken its toll on his face. Still, hopefully he shares that workout routine, ’cause that six pack’s gotta be impressive.

24. Pete Davidson: The Saturday Night Live star has been cycling though a few different looks lately, but he’s yet to try the old age aesthetic. Let’s see how that will work out.

25. Ariana Grande: To be fair, the former Disney star has aged pretty gracefully; other than some wrinkles, she could step right onto the stage in her golden years. If the voice holds her, the career will, too.

26. Taylor Swift: Taylor Swift has fully transitioned from the girl in the bleachers to a total stage mom. The giant sequins even fit the look perfectly — she’s definitely bringing orange slices to her kids’ soccer games.

27. Gaten Matarazzo: Honestly? Gaten actually doesn’t look so out of place as a grandpa; maybe he’s got some future roles as a kindly old man coming down the pipeline. What about his pal, though?

28. Finn Wolfhard: Age has really done some strange things to Finn. While his hair is still going strong, his face is definitely starting to show some wear and tear, giving him a Howard Stern mixed with a grandma look.

29. Selena Gomez: Even in the future, the former Nickelodeon star is still looking pretty screen ready. To be fair, she was always one of the more composed young stars — and it’s paid off in the skin-care department.

Selena Gomez

30. Harry Styles: Harry has cool dad look in his future. Look for this guy on the One Direction revival tour, coming summer 2036. Will the ladies still be screaming for him?