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This claim recently came up in a Reddit post but linked to this article from news.softpedia.com which states:

Getting back to the Gates mug shot being used as the generic profile picture in Outlook 2010, Ars discovered that the silhouettes in the two photos are a perfect match. No confirmation from Microsoft has ever been offered on this, despite the obvious evidence that seems to indicate this is the case.

Since then, Microsoft has switched to other generic photos for its apps, so Outlook 2010 was the only version that featured Bill Gates’ mug shot for the People Pane. In Windows 10, for instance, the Mail app uses a generic circle that shows the sender’s initials, instead of a silhouette created using some employee’s photo.

Given the "evidence" of the picture below, I'm highly doubtful this is more than an urban legend. enter image description here

But I certainly wouldn't put it beyond some company employee to do such a thing as a running joke (with or without approval).

Given that the source is already dated, I wonder if evidence for or against this claim exists by now.

Edit: As far as I can tell, the only source to the story is the above cited ARStechnica article by Peter Bright and his (?) image comparison. I haven't found any independent source or validation so far.

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    What evidence are you looking for? (There seems to be a lot of evidence that the images are genuine, but not so much evidence for whether the silhouette is based off the mugshot, other than what you might assume by looking at them.) – Laurel Sep 25 at 14:00
  • @Laurel: I think the biggest question is whether that silhouette image was ever used in Outlook, or whether it is a hoax. – Oddthinking Sep 25 at 14:06
  • @Oddthinking Well, I was certaily hoping that such an intriguing and funny story would over time produce another source than just a semi-decent Photoshop trace which is not even super-convincing. The lack of it is what makes me suspicious. – BmyGuest Sep 25 at 17:59
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    Did the police in 1977 use color photography for mugshots? – fraxinus Sep 26 at 6:42
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    +1 for having something on this site that's not pouring gas on a conspiracy theory linked to hate movements – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Sep 28 at 13:25
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While there has been no official confirmation from Microsoft of a connection between the two images (that I could find), we know that both images are real. For example Disable The People Pane In Outlook 2010 [How-To] has the same silhouette:

Shows the full interface including the outline

This video shows the same thing: Outlook 2010 People Pane.

The mugshot is from 1977 and can be found uncropped in Time (for example):

Side and front view

And here is a better comparison image from OES-UK to show how similar the images are:

Mugshot on outline


Either way, this would not have been the first time that Microsoft used the mugshot. In May 1998, Bill Gates used his mugshot in a speech “as proof that almost anything can be found on the Internet” (here’s the video; it’s 25 minutes in). The Albuquerque Journal quoted Microsoft spokesperson Dean Katz as saying “Bill thought the picture was kind of funny. He looks pretty youthful and shaggy-haired there”.

Brill’s Content in September 1998 reported (in the same issue that showed the mugshot on the cover), however, that Gates obtained the mugshot from New Mexico police.

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    Well, certainly +1 for verifying the authenticity of the images. It doesn't do much for adding addtional proof, but maybe it is the only that can be done. I was just hoping that such a fun-story would create or leave some sort of trace in history over time. After all, if it is true, there is at least one person that could confirm it. – BmyGuest Sep 25 at 18:02
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    @BmyGuest perhaps that one person is Bill Gates himself, and he's disinclined to admit it? – Mark Ransom Sep 25 at 20:51
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    @MarkRansom the use of the photo may as well be unauthorized by Bill Gates. Graphical designers behave sometimes like this. – fraxinus Sep 26 at 6:40
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    A statistical analysis of the geometric closeness of the silhouettes could quantify the evidence that they are associated. If they were both available at an arbitrarily high resolution and they continued to match perfectly, that would make it asymptotically certain that the similarity is not coincidental. As it is, given that they match within some finite error, one could determine that the Outlook silhouette is more similar to this mug shot than to X% of frontal head-and-shoulders portraits from a large photo library. If say X% = 99.99%, this would be very strong circumstantial evidence. – nanoman Sep 26 at 7:55
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    My intuition from visual inspection of the last comparison image is that the evidence is very strong, because the Outlook silhouette closely matches many specific shapes that would vary from one portrait to another: the width and slope of the shoulders, the right shoulder being slightly higher than the left shoulder, the extra-wide collar, and about a dozen protrusions/indentations in how the hair falls around the head. There are only 3 free parameters in the match (scale, x and y offset -- looks no rotation is needed). – nanoman Sep 26 at 8:06

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