Friday, April 29, 2011

Looking for a stolen camera?

I came across a very interesting Web site via a link at Dark Roasted Blend. It's called "Stolen Camera Finder".

It works like this:

Every photo you take with your digital camera contains hidden information about both the image and the camera such as the make, model and date. This information, called exif data, can also include a unique serial number which identifies your camera.

stolencamerafinder crawls the internet searching for photos, collecting the serial numbers of the cameras that took them.

When you use the drag & drop feature, stolencamerafinder reads the unique serial number from the exif data of your photo and uses it to match against serial numbers it has stored.

I guess this won't be worth the trouble to use for a low-cost point-and-shoot camera, apart from the curiosity factor; but if you're someone like Oleg Volk, with many thousands of dollars invested in cameras and other photographic tools, it might be helpful in recovering very valuable equipment.



Neel Patel said...

While I'm sure the intentions are good for this software package, I'm astounded by the possibilities for abuse. It would be incredibly easy to use this tool to figure out the identity of someone that took a picture you have.

You can run this picture through the website, and receive access to their other photo albums, which may contain identifiable locations, where they work, etc.

I think the existence of this tool makes an even stronger case for disabling EXIF data.

Peter said...

I hadn't thought of that, Neel, but you're quite right. Definitely possibilities for abuse there . . .


Anonymous said...

I read a presentation recently about the military implications of soldiers taking photos (with GPS-provided location info in the metadata), sharing them on flickr, and then getting mortared by shifty hajis who have figured it out.

Needless to say, having a look at the metadata before publishing an image is a very good idea.


Betty said...

Speaking of cameras, Peter - I've been trying to get in contact by email and phone for close to two years now.